One of the strangest creatures I’ve come across (although not first-hand) is the Tardigrade. I first found about these tiny creatures on COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey (highly recommended) and they are really amazing. According to Wikipedia:
Tardigrades are notable for being perhaps the most durable of known organisms; they are able to survive extreme conditions that would be rapidly fatal to nearly all other known life forms. They can withstand temperature ranges from 1 K (−458 °F; −272 °C) to about 420 K (300 °F; 150 °C), pressures about six times greater than those found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than the lethal dose for a human, and the vacuum of outer space. They can go without food or water for more than 30 years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to rehydrate, forage, and reproduce.
National Geographic has a great article titled “5 Reasons Why The Tardigrade Is Nature’s Toughest Animal” which includes clips from COSMOS imagining what Tardigrades may look like in a waterdrop.
What fascinates me about them is that they are so resilient. I couldn’t help but imagine a possible future where humans are long gone and these little creatures become the dominant species on this planet after growing a little and developing technology.
SciShow has a video about them and why space agencies are so interested in them:
- The tardigrade genome has been sequenced, and it has the most foreign DNA of any animal
- The Goldstein Lab, UNC Chapel Hill Tardigrade page
- A post with a couple other links on Win Ott’s Facebook page:
Image credit: “SEM image of Milnesium tardigradum in active state” by Schokraie E, Warnken U, Hotz-Wagenblatt A, Grohme MA, Hengherr S, et al. (2012) and submitted to Wikipedia. Licensed Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic