What’s the world’s toughest animal? You might think it’s a bear or shark or lion or some other savage beast. But the real answer is a microanimal called the tardigrade.
This microscopic creature can survive just about any extreme condition. In space? Check. In freezing temperatures? Check. In boiling temperatures? Check. Radiation? Check.
That’s because tardigrades are classified as extremophiles — organisms that can thrive in a physically or geochemically extreme conditions that would be detrimental to most life on Earth.
When fully grown, tardigrades are only about 0.5 mm. They’re short and plump with four pairs of legs. Each leg has four to eight claws called disks. Most often, tardigrades are found in moss and eat plant cells, algae and even small invertebrates.
They can be viewed under a even low-powered microscopes, making them accessible to students and amateur scientists.
Here’s more about the tardigrade from an Animal Planet documentary: