Tardigrades Might Be The Sole Survivors Of The Apocalypse

Tardigrades Might Be The Sole Survivors Of The Apocalypse

Tardigrades Might Be The Sole Survivors Of The Apocalypse

The famously hardy and arguably quite cute animal, which grows to a maximum length of half a millimetre, can live for up to 30 years without food or water, endure temperatures of up to 150 degrees and is so at home in the frozen vacuum of space that it has been known to mate.

"There are many more resilient species' on Earth".

Scientists scored the survival of the species over three rounds of tests which simulated a large asteroid impact, a blast from an exploding supernova star and a gamma ray burst, which is a very big explosion thought to be caused by a star collapsing.

His Oxford colleague, Dr. Sloan, said their study was focused on how events like supernovae would affect the tardigrade.

Normal natural disasters that are fatal for humans - volcanoes, tsunamis, and the like - weren't even considered in the study: This is the mind-blowing endurance of the tardigrade, here; the suggestion that those events could be hazardous is nearly insulting. The tardigrade is believed to be the hardiest creature alive, so by asking what would kill it, they were asking what it would take to destroy all life on this planet.

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The upshot, he said, was that it was very unlikely any cosmic event would be so catastrophic as to sterilize an Earth-like planet where life, of the sort we know, had got going.

This strengthens interest in the hunt for life on other planets, with Dr Rafael Alves Batista, co-author of the paper, wondering "what else is out there?"

He said: "Tardigrades are as close to indestructible as it gets on Earth, but it is possible that there are other resilient species examples elsewhere in the universe".

If this phenomenon were to happen, Sloan said, "a nearby supernova would be a disastrous event for most life on a planet, but species like the tardigrade could well live on". The closest star to the Sun is four light years away and the probability of a massive star exploding close enough to Earth to kill all forms of life on it, within the Sun's lifetime, is negligible. A supernova - the explosion of a massive star after it burns through its fuel - would have to happen within 0.13 light-years of Earth, and the closest star big enough to go supernova is almost 147 light-years away.

Great news for everyone's favourite vaccuum bag-shaped microanimal - the near-imperishable tardigrade will outlive us all, persisting until the Sun dies in around 5 billion years, according to a new study.

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Paris - If a monster space rock crashes into our planet or radiation from an exploding star boils our oceans, humans and most other life forms will disappear.

"It is hard to eliminate all forms of life from a habitable planet", Avi Loeb, a study co-author and Harvard's chair of astronomy, said in the statement.

In highlighting the resilience of life in general, the research broadens the scope of life beyond Earth, within and outside of this solar system. If a tardigrade can survive these extreme conditions, then so may other creatures beyond the Earth's atmosphere.

Prof Abraham Loeb, co-author and chair of the Astronomy department at Harvard University, suggested Mars' history of once having a somewhat-habitable environment means we should be focusing there. "Organisms with similar tolerances to radiation and temperature as tardigrades could survive long term below the surface in these conditions". Not so for the tardigrade - a hardy, eight-legged creature that lives in in watery environments across Earth, from mountains to the deep sea.

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