The microscopic animals called water bears already have quite a number of accomplishments under their belts. In experiments, they’ve survived the vacuum of space, large doses of radiation, extreme heat, extreme cold, and extreme pressure, giving scientists cause to believe that the little guys could potentially live on other planets and weather long journeys across space (they also make for great tattoos).
But to pull this off, they’d have to reproduce. Scientists have now exposed water bear eggs to three of these stressors—extreme temperature, vacuum, and a dose of radiation so strong that exposure to even a fraction of it would kill a human in days. They found that provided the eggs are given a chance to dehydrate themselves and go dormant, surprising numbers that survive: more than 70% of eggs for the temperature test, and more than 50% for the radiation test, while vacuum-exposed eggs hatched at similar rates as control eggs.
The scientists didn’t check to see whether the eggs could handle all three at once and still make it through alright, which would be important for space travel. But those numbers are still pretty impressive, for creatures whose native habitat is puddles.
Image courtesy of Willow Gabriel and Bob Goldstein / Wikimedia Commons