Prelims 2021 Science & Tech

Toughest Living Organism : Tardigrades


  • In a recently published paper, researchers from Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru (IISc) have reported findings on a species of microscopic organisms called tardigrades (also knows as water bears).

About: Tardigrades

  • Also known as water bears or moss piglets, tardigrades are microscopic organisms (less than a millimetre in size) considered as one of the toughest animals on the planet that can easily survive in any environment.
  • They can live in water or on land, and are capable of surviving temperatures as high as 150° Celsius and as low as minus 272° Celsius albeit for a few minutes.
  • They can also withstand extreme radiation, and survive decades without food.
  • The eight-legged animals can come back from being dried out to a lifeless husk for decades, and withstand the crushing depths of the Mariana Trench.
  • About 1,300 species of Tardigrades have been reported worldwide.

Sent to moon by Israel:

  • In 2019, Tardigrades were on a lunar lander and probe called Beresheet launched by an Israeli private company.
  • Tardigrades were sent because they are microscopic, multicellular, and one of the most durable forms of life on planet Earth.
  • However, Beresheet crash-landed on the Moon and got destroyed, but the company said that they believe the tardigrades might have survived the Beresheet lunar crash.

News Summary:

  • Researchers from Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru (IISc) have been studying tardigrades (also knows as water bears).
  • They studies one species that they were able to locate in the campus, as they are known to be found on algae and similar vegetation.
  • A paper with the findings was published in the journal Biology Letters.

Survive UV radiation:

  • They studied a tardigrade called Paramacrobiotus BLR strain (BLR for Bengaluru).
  • It survived beyond 30 days after 15 minutes exposure to germicidal UV radiation (one kilojoule per square metre).
  • At this radiation dose, another species of tardigrade called Hypsibius exemplaris died within a day, and most of the roundworms were found dead within a week.
  • Even when it was exposed to four times higher radiation, about 60% of the Paramacrobiotus sp. survived beyond 30 days.
  • Protective fluorescent shield:
    • They found that a tardigrade has a protective fluorescent shield which helps it survive harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
    • Even the other organisms coated with fluorescent extract from Paramacrobiotus sp. showed longer period of survival.

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