Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

How Does the Tiny Waterbear Survive In Outer Space? 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the must-be-their-tiny-space-program dept.
DevotedSkeptic sends this excerpt from SmithsonianMag: "The humble tardigrade, also known as a 'waterbear' or 'moss piglet,' is an aquatic eight-legged animal that typically grows no longer than one millimeter in length. Most tardigrades (there are more than 1,000 identified species) have a fairly humdrum existence, living out their days on a moist piece of moss or in the sediment at the bottom of a lake and feeding on bacteria or plant life. In 2007, a group of European researchers pushed the resilience of this extraordinary animal even further, exposing a sample of dehydrated tardigrades to the vacuum and solar radiation of outer space for 10 full days. When the specimens were returned to earth and rehydrated, 68 percent of those that were shielded from the radiation survived, and even a handful of those with no radiation protection came back to life and produced viable offspring. How do the little tardigrades survive such a harsh environment? Although amateur tardigrade enthusiast Mike Shaw recently made waves by postulating that the animals may be equipped to survive in outer space because they originally came from other planets, scientists are certain that the creatures developed their uncommon toughness here on earth."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How Does the Tiny Waterbear Survive In Outer Space?

Comments Filter:
  • Ummm.. (Score:1, Troll)

    by MightyMartian (840721)

    Shouldn't "amateur tardigrade enthusiast Mike Shaw" read "complete fucking moron Mike Shaw"?

    • by Russ1642 (1087959)
      He must be related to Egon Spengler, who collects spores, moulds, and fungus.
      • Yes, I did read TFA - both of them

        I was interested in the level of "dehydration" those creatures were being put through before were sent to space

        TFA #1, from Smithsonian Magazine, only mentioned "dehydration", but it did provide a link to the cell magazine summary, where it is mentioned that the "waterbears" were put through "extreme dehydration"

        Hmm....

        How extreme is extreme dehydration?

        To what I know, all living things, whether it be plants, microbes, animals, had to have H2O inside the cell structures (DN

        • Barking up the wrong tree. Analyze the DNA. If it codes for amino acids the same way as the rest of us the argument is over before it begins.

    • why moron? it's not that far-fetched to postulate that some creatures here may have come from elsewhere..
      • by Kittenman (971447)

        why moron? it's not that far-fetched to postulate that some creatures here may have come from elsewhere..

        Actually it is. I'm not a biologist (INAB?) but I think all species down here on Terra all interrelate in some way. We all have RNA/DNA, etc etc. No, I don't know enough to know what I'm talking about with authority, but our species are all adapted to our planet.

        It's not impossible that
        a) an outer-space species could exist
        b) it would get here
        c) it could live and thrive here
        - but it is far-fetched.

        • by Intropy (2009018)

          Just those three stipulations alone don't make it that far fetched. Exogenesis, the hypothesis that all life on Earth originally comes from somewhere else, is legitimate. What would make the claim far-fetched is adding:
          d) it would appear so similar to other life on Earth that biologists with morphological and molecular studies think they can place roughly where it fits in the phylogeny of all other life on Earth
          e) it does not decend from the same root species as every other known species on Earth

          • by LurkerXXX (667952)

            But the fact that most of the species are killed with only 10 days exposure to space radiation makes it very, very, very unlikely.

            10 days is a uselessly small exposure time when thinking of the amount of time needed to travel the vast distances between stars.

            • by Intropy (2009018)

              For those specific species yes, it would seem incredibly unlikely they caught a ride on an asteroid or somesuch. But for an ancestor a few hundred billion generations back? Who knows?

              • by Havenwar (867124)

                True. Bet's let's simplify that for you by reducing it to opposing hypothesis:

                Your hypothesis is that an alien species incredibly hardy travelled through space to land on earth, managed to survive by competing with the existing lifeforms, but somehow slowly devolved into a microscopic eight legged bear.

                Assumptions made: There is life in space, such life travels, it somehow found this particular tiny speck in the outer parts of the galaxy, it wasn't hardy enough to trump other life on earth, it is similar en

                • by Spaseboy (185521)

                  Your assumption is that life on Earth is the standard by which to measure all life. There is every bit the possibility that life on Earth is actually incredibly fragile and that the norm is "hardiness"...

                  I didn't read the article but you don't think it is possible that a cataclysm destroying a planet could send fragments containing this life form's ancestor hurtling into space? You're acting like it left of its own accord.

                  Occam's razor would actually lead one to think that because we have so little knowled

                  • by Havenwar (867124)

                    Sure. So let's avoid speculating on life on other planets. We know life on our planet exists, that it evolves, and that this particular little critter is on earth, and shares the same biological makeup as other life on the planet.

                    So the simplest explanation as you put it, still says we should assume it's terrestrial in origin. Anything else would require more assumptions, and less likely events.

                • Oh, and as a bonus point, personally I'd make the assumption that tiny eight legged bears that scientists finds fascinating enough to pay to bring to fucking space for experiments have probably been researched quite a lot in every other possible way, and found to be quite in line with current understanding of what a terrestrial being is

                  Not only that, but I've seen talks by labs that do biology research on tardigrades. They're funded by the national institute of health (NIH) like many other basic research programs that use "lower" organisms. The idea is that with these simpler organisms, it's easier to do experiments on them and learn something about their genetics, cell biology, physiology, or evolution that will be applicable to us. If you find a gene and what it does in fruit flies, for example, that might be useful to human health b

                • by Intropy (2009018)

                  I'm going to try to ignore the condescending tone and assume you are merely confused and not deliberately building up a straw man to attack.

                  Your hypothesis is that an alien species incredibly hardy travelled through space to land on earth, managed to survive by competing with the existing lifeforms, but somehow slowly devolved into a microscopic eight legged bear.

                  Well, it's not my hypothesis, I merely lend it some credence that you don't. Two mistakes here. First, you are adding the assumption that life already existed on Earth when the alien species arrives. Second, assuming you are using "devolve" to mean something like "the opposite of evolve" then you misunderstand evolution in general. Evolution is a slow process of change

                  • by Havenwar (867124)

                    Okay, you definitely got me on misuse of vocabulary with devolving, my bad. I won't bother making excuses for that, that's on me.

                    However much of your current argument falls entirely on the fact that the premise was that these critters in specific were not originated on earth. Not that all life on earth came from outside or not, that I agree entirely is a non-conclusive and bla bla, but it's a completely different argument. The argument made was that the hardiness of these critters indicated that they (or as

                    • by Intropy (2009018)

                      Fair enough, but that wasn't the argument I was making. And the post way up in this thread was where I was explaining what makes Shaw's hypothesis silly whereas the general hypothesis of exogenesis is not.

                      Specifically

                      a) an outer-space species could exist
                      b) it would get here
                      c) it could live and thrive here

                      Isn't all that unlikely given current data. What is unlikely is a, b, c, plus

                      d) it would appear so similar to other life on Earth that biologists with morphological and molecular studies think they can place roughly where it fits in the phylogeny of all other life on Earth
                      e) it does not decend from the same root species as every other known species on Earth

                    • by Havenwar (867124)

                      Fair point, a case of misunderstanding. Next time, you try to make clear when you decide to change what you're arguing about in the middle of a thread, and I promise I'll try to double check so I don't miss it.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            Exogenesis, the hypothesis that all life on Earth originally comes from somewhere else, is legitimate.

            Well, the hypothesis that the Area 51 greys are our decendants from ten million years in the future who came back in time is legit, too, but it's even more unlikely.

            First, we have never found evidence of any life at all anywhere but here. Second, the odds of one of these creature's eggs, spores, or whatever landing on a planet that already harbors life is pretty damned remote, considering how empty space is

        • by Anonymous Coward

          It is astronomically improbable that any animals / mini-bears / life known on Earth comes from somewhere else, unless we all were descended from some very early off-Earth starter version all life on earth some 1.5 Billion years or so ago when Earth atmosphere chemistry started changing. Like the Drake equation (but with much larger numbers), all life on this planet uses left handed DNA (%50), right handed sugar chemistry (%50), 4 nucleotides (AGCT - %??) encoding triplets (%??) (64 of them) that code for ju

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          Unless the species originally evolved on Mars when it was still a wet world, and then was ejected by meteorite impact to this world. Even NASA has postulated the possibility.

          • So it had to survive a catastrophic event that threw it on a piece of rock out of the atmosphere of Mars into an orbit that brought it to Earth within the allotted number of days for it to survive and then survive entry into the Earth's atmosphere, which no matter how you spin it would involve the subject going from very,very cold to very, very hot, very, very quickly. To survive all that and land some place where there is food and beside a mate.
            I really think it would need an infinite improbability drive
          • Even NASA has postulated the possibility....

            ...of single celled organisims hitching a ride from Mars to Earth. We are talking about a complex multi-celled creature here, it's a very different proposition. I find the whole "panspermia" argument pointless, the Earth is made of the same stuff the rest of the solar system is made of, sure organic chemicals, large chunks of ice and maybe even single celled creatures rained down on the early Earth from space, that stuff just made the Earth a bit bigger, it was fundementally no different to the existing mat

        • I think all species down here on Terra all interrelate in some way

          Without studying life on other planets we can't rule out the possibility that species there also interrelate with our species.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        It's extremely far fetched to hypothesize that any life form that shares our genetic code does not share a common ancestor with us.

        • It would be like insisting your niece, even after genetic tests shows her affinity to you, is not your niece at all and is in fact not even human.

      • by Spaseboy (185521)

        Ugh! Why do you keep insisting that the Earth is not the centre of the universe, Copernicus! It has been proven by both God and Science that Everything revolves around God's pinnacle of creation!

      • Because Tardigrades, genetically and morphologically, fall into the twin nested hierarchy of life on Earth; just like bananas, hyenas, humans, etc. If Tardigrades are from space, then everything is from space.

        I'll repeat, the guy is a fucking retard.

  • It has Electrolytes
  • They're related to the TARDIS.
  • by stevegee58 (1179505) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @07:18PM (#41306843) Journal
    I meant that in a nice way.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @07:23PM (#41306887) Journal

    Although amateur tardigrade enthusiast Mike Shaw recently made waves by postulating that the animals may be equipped to survive in outer space because they originally came from other planets ...

    Tardigrade Captain: Okay over there, bring the ship down in that clearing, it looks like there's some specimens there on that asphalt path.
    *the Tardigrade craft lands in Time Square and the well armed two meter tall Tardigrades disembark*
    Tardigrade Captain: Oh, for the love of Ursa Major! How ugly these specimens turned out! Look at that one!
    *the Tardigrade captain gestures toward an Earth female with her jaw agape*
    Tardigrade Captain: Ewww, what is this on top of them?
    *the Tardigrade captain reaches for the girls hair with his second set of appendages while the first set rubs saliva down his mouth onto his chest and his tertiary set scratches himself*
    Tardigrade Officer: *runs a device over the woman* Some sort of fibrous material sir ... apparently dead organic material ...
    *the Tardigrade captain withdraws his appendages in terror*
    Tardigrade Captain: Oh for fuck's sake, another experiment ruined. Gross. GROSS. All of them just gross as all hell! Alright, everybody back on the ship, you know the drill, take off and nuke 'er from orbit ...
    Tardigrade Officer: But ... but sir, this colony may be lacking light speed travel but our sensors show a plethora of cultural phenomena -- aggregates of which exist right here in this very metropolis!
    Tardigrade Captain: You know Jerry, it's always something with you, isn't it? 'Mew mew mew, this civilization has eliminated all evil. Blah blah blah this civilization is one million years old, isn't that worth something?' Now this is the 174th failed experiment we've checked up on and I ...
    *just then an advertisement for Here Comes Honey Boo Boo [youtube.com] blares across the Times Square display -- the stupefied Tardigrades watch*
    Tardigrade Officer: I'll push the button this time.

    • by bfwebster (90513)

      Funniest thing I've read today. Thanks. :-)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't watch TV anymore, and watching that reminded me precisely why.

      One thing to keep in mind... think about a person of average intelligence (not talking IQ, just general intelligence) and then realize that if that's the average, half of them are worse than that.

      And next time you post a link to something like that, please include a warning. Something along the lines of NSFB (not safe for brain) would work.

      Disclaimer: Please disregard any spelling or grammatical errors... my brain is still recovering from

      • You forgot to add in your disclaimer that you are plagerizing George Carlin's jokes.
      • I don't watch TV anymore, and watching that reminded me precisely why.

        Wait. You don't watch TV anymore, but you watched that?

        Why?

      • by harrkev (623093)

        I think that you are mixing up "average" and "median." I suspect that they are close in this case, but I would not be surprised if the median were somewhat below the average.

  • by WilliamGeorge (816305) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @07:24PM (#41306897)

    This brings a new meaning to the old Royal Guardsmen song 'Bears':

    [third verse]
    While swimming in your pool try not loose your cool
    And be drown-ded... by a Water-Bear!

    Citation: http://lyrics.wikia.com/The_Royal_Guardsmen:Bears [wikia.com]

  • Better Title (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @07:31PM (#41306959)

    "Scientists believe Water Bears from space have made habitat on earth."

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @07:40PM (#41307053)

    Being dragged out of your home and subjected to solar radiation and a vacuum?

    I expect they live only for revenge.

    • by dzfoo (772245) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @07:54PM (#41307169)

      I hear you. And most worrisome is that we may have endowed them with super powers by exposing them to cosmic radiation in outer space!

      - "What's the status on those wriggly buggers?"
      - "Tardigrades? Well, sir, against all odds and expectations, some of them managed to survive. They're even breeding!"
      - "Really? Even the ones exposed to cosmic radiation?"
      - "Even the ones exposed to cosmic radiation, yes."
      - "Wow! They're even more resilient than we thought!"
      - "You could even say, indestructible..."
      - "Amazing."
      - "Sir, what should we do with them now?"
      - "We bring them back to Earth and watch them breed and see what happens from there...
      - "Aye! Aye! What could possibly go wrong?"

      • by mapkinase (958129)

        Jokes aside, usually God gives His creatures either very good protection (high birth rate - rabbits, mimicry - chameleons, tough exoskeleton - turtles) or very good weapons (speed, claws, teeth, muscles)

        So nothing will possibly go wrong. We will have small tough animals locked up in their ecological niche.

  • by Third Position (1725934) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @07:45PM (#41307101)

    Now that we know they can survive in extreme environments, what do we do with 'em? I suppose they could dump a few payloads of them on Mars or Venus and wait a few million years while evolution takes it's course....

    • by WilyCoder (736280)

      Whats this evolution you speak of? Everyone knows that you should pray for god to create life on mars and then it will happen, DUH!

    • Zinger, that. If you can't throw spit off the truck, then what's the upside?

      These little buggers will just evolve into a new dietary choice for the Martians, who will then thank us profusely. I mean, right now, they can eat rust, and ... uh... rust. Limited menu. They'll love us. Might even stop them from shooting back at our rover when it does the laser science thing.

      I say, launch 'em!

    • by harrkev (623093)

      Good luck with that. When the tough get going, they hibernate (well, not quite hibernation, but close enough). In order for things to happen, the conditions eventually have to improve. I suspect that they would just hibernate on Mars indefinitely.

  • by asifyoucare (302582) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @08:02PM (#41307231)
    ... but it was aliens.
  • by Waterbearlang (2727933) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @08:09PM (#41307273) Homepage
    How does the tiny Waterbear
    Survive in Outer Space
    By dehydrating all the while
    And wrinkling its face!

    How bravely she can abide
    Extremes of cold and heat
    Take it all in stride so gallantly
    With its graceful, nimble feet!

    In works of art or science free
    And open source, no fool
    She teaches children how to code[1]
    Because Waterbear is cool.

    So cute, so humble, so robust
    Waterbear is da boss
    But all she really wants from life
    Is a comfy home of moss.

    [1] Shameless plug: http://waterbearlang.com/ [waterbearlang.com]
  • Classic (Score:4, Funny)

    by AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @08:50PM (#41307559)
    Dashing and daring
    Courageous and caring
    Faithful and friendly
    With stories to share
    Taaaaaardibears!
  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @11:04PM (#41308459) Homepage Journal

    A Tardigrade is a retrograde TARDIS and everyone knows that a TARDIS can handle outer space.

  • What's the equivalent in ye olde inches?

    • by hattig (47930)

      Tardigrad. There are 2.16 Imperial Tardigrads in a metric Tardigrade.

      Of course there is a disparity between Imperial and US "English" measurements, as there are actually 2.58 English Tardigrads in a metric Tardigrade.

  • So let me get this straight... When you put these super resilient creatures in space with no protection from radiation most of them die. But if you send comparatively weak men to the moon where they're exposed to the exact same radiation they all survive and none died soon after from cancer? Makes sense...
    • by pne (93383)

      So let me get this straight...

      When you put these super resilient creatures in space with no protection from radiation most of them die.

      But if you send comparatively weak men to the moon where they're exposed to the exact same radiation they all survive and none died soon after from cancer?

      Makes sense...

      You missed the bit with "no protection from radiation". The space suit isn't just there to keep air inside it.

  • ...as I was dropping them in liquid nitrogen at college and watching in amazement as they shrugged off the frost and carried on

  • It bothers me that both wikipedia and now this, apparently directly copying Wikipedia's information, use the term "Outer Space" to refer to Low Earth Orbit. Outer space is a bit different from just space... or at least is usually used as different...

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

Working...