Creature that can survive in space!

9 05 2008

I’ve been back in Malaysia for about 3 days and after catching up with all the good food and shopping, I decided to spend some time at home writing. I was wondering what would be interesting, went through my drafts and saw this! I’ve been wanting to blog about this since last year but never found the time. Special thanks to Jiin Joo for telling me about this “alien”-ish creature!

Waterbear image
The Waterbear!

This creature is no other than the Waterbear which bears the scientific name Tardigrade for slow-walking animal. For starters, (this will disappoint you) they are not your average-sized mammal but microscopic creatures that resemble a GUMMI bear with a face, claws and paws. They come in Gummi bear colours of orange, red and green too! 😀

Check out this video of the Waterbear walking. You can actually see its paws and feet:

Where can you find them? According to Microscopy UK, they can be found almost anywhere especially in water droplets of dark moss. Among some of the extreme places where their existence has been encountered are at the top of the Himalayas, in hot springs and under thick layers of solid ice. One of the unique traits of the Waterbear that allows them to survive in literally any condition is their ability to “sleep” and “revive” themselves again. They are capable of deactivating their metabolism turning into a suspended state which will “reactivate” when exposed to water. Talk about people who need a bucket of water splashed on their faces to wake up. Watch the video of the Waterbear’s “returning from the dead” process here.

The other extreme conditions they are able to survive in (where most living things suffer/die) are temperatures over 100C, absolute zero, pressures many times the atmospheric pressure, in vacuum and even a decade without water. There are a few parties online who mention a NASA Space Shuttle experiment (which I failed to find on the official NASA website) where a few microbes including the Waterbear were placed on a rock and put in outer space. Upon entering the vacuum, the microbes went into a suspended state and despite long-term exposure their DNAs were not affected by any radiation. In other words, the Waterbear’s DNA is radiation resistant. This rare ability to survive in vacuum and withstand radiation has caused speculations that these creatures are capable of interplanetary travel and may have come to Earth from other planets. It still remains a question of how long the Waterbear will be able to survive in this suspended state(some say a few years) and whether it is able to withstand the harsh conditions that deep space holds to travel to another galaxy.

The Waterbear is certainly one of those marvels of science (and mystery of outer space?) with a lot for us to learn from. Who knows, when we discover the secrets behind their DNA we might be able to apply the knowledge gained to modify and make our DNAs more resistant to radiations and MAYBE… (a huuuge maybe) hibernate long enough for inter-galactic travel. Mysteries are knowledge waiting to be mined and as the saying goes, with knowledge comes great power 😀
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Interesting resources you might want to check out:
The incredible waterbear!
The Waterbear it is! from Scientific Blogging
Earth Life could possibly reach Titan from Slashdot. (Discussions under comments are really interesting)
Hunting for ‘bears’ in the backyard

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3 responses

9 05 2008
Celestial Objects » Creature that can survive in space!

[…] Original post by bitbot […]

9 05 2008
Yash

This creature is no other than the Waterbear which BEARS the scientific name Tardigrade for slow-walking animal.

hehe..I think you forgot to add ‘Excuse the pun’ 😛

10 05 2008
bitbot

Hahahaha! That’s a good one! I missed it somehow when I was writing ^^;;.

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