These Weird Creatures Will Live Long Enough to See Sun Die

Researchers unable to theoretically kill off the tardigrade
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2017 6:58 PM CDT
These Weird Creatures Will Be Last Life Left on Earth
A new study finds the tardigrade--a microscopic animal also known as the "water bear"--will likely survive until the Sun dies out.   (AP Photo/Bob Goldstein & Vicki Madden, UNC Chapel Hill)

A study published Friday in Scientific Reports found there is one life form that will likely survive long enough to watch the Sun die out. And it's not Keith Richards. According to a press release, the study found that no astrophysical catastrophe nor extinction event will be enough to kill the mighty tardigrade, also known as the "water bear." These microscopic animals can survive for 30 years without food or water and in the vacuum of space. The Washington Post reports tardigrades can live in temperatures from 350 degrees Celsius to just a degree above absolute zero. Tardigrades can be dried out for a decade or hang out at the bottom of the ocean, according to Smithsonian. "Tardigrades are as close to indestructible as it gets on Earth," says Dr. Rafael Alves Batista, co-author of study.

In an attempt to theoretically kill off the tardigrade, researchers tried three of the most destructive forces known: asteroids, supernovas, and gamma-ray bursts. All three failed for various reasons (no asteroids large enough to boil off the oceans in a collision, no stars besides the Sun close enough to release enough radiation in a supernova, etc.). The study concludes that means at least one form of life on Earth will last as long as the Sun is still shining. "It seems that life, once it gets going, is hard to wipe out entirely," co-author Dr. David Sloan says. Not only that, but the ability of tardigrades to survive cataclysmic events gives researchers hope for finding life on other planets. (After 30 years on ice, this thing came back to life.)

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