Perhaps the hardiest creature on the face of the earth, or under the sea, is barely large enough to be seen by the naked eye. There are some twelve hundred species of tardigrade, which, if they were our size, would be terrifying. In fact, they are usually about 0.5 mm in size, have eight legs, and are usually referred to as water bears. Under normal circumstances, they live for several months; but, under periods of extreme stress, roll up into a tiny barrel shape called a tun and turn themselves off for as many days, weeks, months, years, or even decades pass and circumstances improve.
What the tardigrade could survive includes:
- A few minutes at 151° Celsius (304° Fahrenheit)
- Thirty years at -20° Celsius (-4° Fahrenheit)
- A few days at -200° Celsius (-328° Fahrenheit)
- A few minutes at 272° Celsius (-458° Fahrenheit)
They can also survive at sea level, at the bottom of the deepest depth of the Pacific (the Marianas Trench) and even the weightlessness and radiation of outer space. This was tested at the Space Station: Although some of the tardigrades dies, most survived and returned to normal when they landed on earth.
If you have a few minutes, I urge you to watch this informative BBC video, which contains further amazing statistics about this creature:
We talk about colonizing the planets and distant stars. I am not sure that we could, but I have every confidence that the tardigrades could.