Tardigrades Have Incredible Resilience

Tardigrades Have Incredible Resilience
Tardigrade or Water Bear

NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” for May 21, 2023, shows a small creature called a tardigrade crawling on some moss. The picture is an electron micrograph of the tardigrade, which is a millimeter long (0.0393701 inches). Most tardigrades range between 0.3 and 0.5 mm. They eat plants and bacteria and help convert them to other forms essential to molding and shaping the environment. In addition, tardigrades have incredible resilience to adverse conditions.

Tardigrades can go for decades without food or water. They can withstand temperatures near absolute zero but can also survive in boiling water. They can survive in pressures well above what has been measured on the ocean floor or even in a near-perfect vacuum. Tardigrades have incredible resilience, allowing them to survive direct exposure to high radiation levels. They can repair their own DNA or reduce their body water content to a few percent.

They were first described in 1773 by a German zoologist who called them “little water bears.” Then, in 1777, an Italian biologist gave them the “tardigrade” name, which means “slow walker.” These creatures remind us that living things too small to see with normal human vision are major movers and shapers of higher life forms.
The formation of unseen life systems that allow us to exist demonstrates life’s complexity. It demands an acceptance of the fact that we are not just a chance collision of atoms. The more we see of life and design in the creation, the more we comprehend the magnitude of the Creator’s power and wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day