Tardigrades!

Tardigrades | Wild Animal | Sea | 10th September 2022 | Virtual Wire

 

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Mankind has always dreamt to be immortal. Scientists have been trying to find ways, at least, to slow down ageing. Maybe this tiny creature might give them a hint.

Tardigrades are microscopic, aquatic animals found just about everywhere on Earth. They average about half a millimetre (500 micrometres) in length. They are barely seen with the naked eye, so researchers who work with tardigrades see them through a dissecting microscope. Those tiny and cute invertebrates also called water bears or moss piglets, are considered to be the source of immortality due to their extreme survivorship in extreme terrestrial microenvironments. Tardigrades have been experimentally subjected to temperatures of –272.95 degrees Celsius for 20 hours. They have been stored at –200 degrees Celsius for 20 months and have survived. They have been exposed to 150 Celsius, far above the boiling point of water, and have been revived.


They have been subjected to more than 40,000 kilopascals of pressure and excess concentrations of suffocating gasses (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, sulfur dioxide), and still, they returned to active life. Those animals even survived the burning ultraviolet radiation of space. However, their astonishing durability applies only to some species of terrestrial tardigrades. Marine and aquatic tardigrades did not evolve these characteristics because their environments are stable. Under unfavourable conditions, they go into a state of suspended animation called the “tun” state—in which the body dries out and appears as a lifeless ball (or tun). In this state, they are able to withstand extremely low temperatures and desiccation (extreme drying).

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Tardigrades can survive as tuns for years, or even decades while waiting for the ambient conditions come to normal levels. Tardigrades may reproduce sexually or through asexual reproduction (by means of parthenogenesis, able to produce eggs without mating, or through self-fertilization [hermaphroditism]). Scientists believe there is an abundance of species yet to be discovered, especially in non-terrestrial environments. Who knows? Maybe we are one step closer to immortality. However, I would like to ask how many of you want to live forever in a world full of problems such as conflicts, drought, crime or diseases? Maybe we should ponder more on it.

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