What The Heck Is It?
Meet the microscopic organism known as a tardigrade. If you've ever been swimming in a natural body of fresh or salt water, chances are you unknowingly encountered one of these. It is commonly called a "water bear" because of its appearance and also known as a "moss piglet" for its stout frame and affinity for mossy habitats. Tardigrades range in size from 50 to 1200 microns in length.
Tardigrades live in waters all over the world under some of the harshest environments, from the arctic to tropical regions and from the barren peaks of the Himalayas to 13,000 feet below the sea. They are a prime example of an "extremophile", that is, an organism that can withstand extreme conditions widely considered uninhabitable.
Tardigrades are able to survive in a dehydrated state for up to ten years by lowering their metabolism to .01% and their water content to 1% of normal. Because of their super survival abilities, they have participated in space missions and have successfully survived solar radiation, extreme temperatures and the vacuum of space.
Learn more about water bears