Let’s be honest: it seems the world’s most amazing animals are all hard to find. It takes a boat ride to the open ocean before you’ll see a blue whale (the largest animal on Earth); and a trip to the Serengeti to see a cheetah (the fastest terrestrial creature). However, there’s this little creature that stands the chance of surviving extreme conditions — like high pressures and temperatures, the vacuum of space, and even a nuclear apocalypse. Dear friends, meet the little record-breaker, the tardigrade — who leaves behind otherworldly poop.
Related media: What Makes Tardigrades Immortal?
Here are some things that are true about tardigrades: They’re tiny, measuring between 0.05 millimeters to 1.2 mm (0.002 to 0.05 inches) long — right on the edge of visibility. They’re not one species, but a whole phylum of animals. (A phylum is a broad category; There are just 32 phyla in the animal kingdom). They’re incredibly common in wet soil. And they’re among the hardiest creatures on Earth, able to survive dehydration, blasts of radiation, and intense swings in temperature.
The tardigrade is a microscopic creature, about 0.2 millimeters long — also known as “water bears” or “moss piglets.” Most species either live in water or on semi-aquatic terrestrial environments. However, these creatures are really incredible in their own rite. Just take a good look at them: those little snout-like mouths they have are meant for piecing plant membrane or that of animals, allowing the tardigrade to suck out any fluids within it’s host.
Tardigrades are known to be carnivorous: preying on other microscopic creatures like rotifers or even other tardigrades, though many munch on lichen or algae.
“Tardigrades are extraordinary.” says Tessa Montague, Ph.D., on her Twitter account. “They can survive -270 to +150 degrees celsius, ionizing radiation 100x higher than the lethal dose for humans and the vacuum of outer space.”
She told LiveScience, is probably what this little guy is pooping in the video below.
Tardigrades are extraordinary. They can survive -270 to +150 degrees celsius, ionizing radiation 100x higher than the lethal dose for humans and the vacuum of outer space.— Tessa Montague (@TessaMontague) May 17, 2018
They also do huge poos. When nature calls…! #turdigrade #embryo2017 #tardigrade @MBLScience @zeiss_micro pic.twitter.com/O2p4frjO0E
Live Tiny, Never Die
As you just witnessed, with a body as tiny as that, you don’t need to waste any time on… well, waste. The huge dark mass in the tardigrade’s digestion seem to take up almost a third of it’s entire body length. That’s quite a trouble on it but seems like a really huge relief when it passes through. Later, you saw that the tardigrade was kicking all of it’s eight legs to swim away — a feature made possible because the fact that it’s pressed between two microscopic coverslips.
In another video below, you can see a tardigrade relieve itself. This time in full color and without the obstacles. Swim away!
The tardigrade you just saw was recently discovered, and so far, there are more than 1,200 known species of tardigrade, this one is known as Macrobiotus shonaicus. It’s discovery was published in the Journal for the Public Library of Science by Japanese bioscientist Kazuharu Arakawa in the parking lot of his apartment. Aforementioned, you could find ‘em hidden in your own backyard.
A Pretty Tiny Way To Survive
This is not a surprise that there are so many species of tardigrade. But what makes them stand out above all is their ability to survive extreme condition. Tardigrades have been frozen to -200 degree Celsius (-328 degree Fahrenheit), heated to 149 degree Celsius (300 degree Fahrenheit), subjected to pressures 6,000 times more than the atmosphere of the Earth, and even exposed to high doses of radiation thousand times greater than that that would kill a human instantly — and yet tardigrades survived.
And as a matter of fact, scientists even believe that tardigrades are tough enough to survive an asteroid impact, a gamma-ray burst, and even a nearby supernova. That’s sounds impressive to astrobiologists — astronomers searching for signs of extraterrestrial life in space. If tardigrades exist, they might be thriving; that means we stand the chance of finding tardigrades on other worlds. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute could now focus on finding organisms that could survive extreme conditions instead — like that of the tardigrade with big poops.
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Thu, Aug 01, 2019.