Monday, 8 September 2008

Water bears in space!

Water bears, scientifically known as Tardigrades, are not only unbelievably funny looking animals, they can also survive in space!

First reported in 1773, water bears have since been described by scientists as “One of the most miraculous creatures" (by Gustav Jager in 1867) and as “strange miniaturized water animals" (by Alfred Kaestner in 1969). Though water bears are widespread around the earth, they are only 0.3 mm long, and so escape detection. Despite their small size, they have many of the characteristics of larger animals, including legs, claws, eyes and muscles. Something that makes them even remarkable, however, is there ability to enter a dried-up, and super resistant state — dried water bears can survive years without water.

Reporting in Current Biology, Petra Rettberg and colleagues now sent a minutia of dried-up water bears (what do you call a group of water bears?) into space. Amazingly, these animals were able to survive 10 days exposure to the harsh conditions of outer space — freezing temperatures, extreme desiccation and phenomenally high levels of radiation! Until now, only lichens and bacteria had survived such conditions.

Watch the video below to see a water bear doing it’s adorable victory dance. Three cheers for the water bear!