Tardigrades otherwise known as water bears or moss piglets are amongst the most resilient organisms on the planet. These water-dwelling micro-animals can withstand extreme conditions that would be fatal for almost all other creatures. They can survive temperatures from 1 K to 420 K and can go without food for thirty years. Tardigrades are also able to withstand the vacuum of space and can survive the pressures six times greater than what is present in the depths of the ocean trenches.
Discovered in the 18th century by leading Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani, tardigrades were initially known as kleiner Wasserbar which means little water bear in German. They were named as such because their movements are akin to a bear's walk. These micro-animals are mostly found near lichens and mosses. They occur frequently in nature with some estimates record 25,000 animals per liter of liquid.
This tiny organism, which usually clocks in at half a millimeter in length, were shot into the spotlight when scientists from Japan's National Institute of Polar Research successfully revived Tardigrade samples from Antarctica which were collected thirty years ago in 1983.
Since being thawed, the revived tardigrade went on to reproduce. Only 22 days following their revival, 19 eggs have been laid and 14 out of the lot went on to survive.
The discovery is considered revolutionary since the life span for frozen tardigrades were initially capped off at nine years. Scientists involved in the research has since spoken up about their discovery. According to them, the research is significant in studying what it takes in order to survive extreme conditions.
"The present study extends the known length of long-term survival in tardigrade species considerably. Further more detailed studies using quantitative analysis with greater replication under a range of controlled conditions will improve understanding of mechanisms and conditions underlying the long-term preservation and survival of animals" read a part of the abstract.