Tardigrades are the most resilient creatures on Earth. These microscopic creatures, which look very strange, belong to the category of extremophilic animals, which can survive in almost any condition.
These extremely resilient creatures can be boiled, frozen, and even thrown into outer space, but they will not die. They can be saved by using cryptobiosis, a mechanism by which they almost completely stop their metabolism.
Only if you thought that the late graders could not be more indestructible, scientists have just discovered a new species of small bullies that seems immune to lethal levels of ultraviolet radiation.
Tardigrades, also known as “water bears”, actually have about 1,300 species of small animals. This new type, called Paramacrobiotus BLR, glows a deep blue when exposed to UV radiation – about which, as Gizmodo reports, scientists believe that it is a kind of biological protection mechanism.
Scientists who have discovered the new species are not sure exactly what is happening to it. But in research recently published in the journal Biology Letters, a team of scientists in Bangalore suggests that tardigrades somehow absorb dangerous radiation and turn it into harmless blue light.
“After UV treatment, tardigrades were observed daily for signs of life – active movement and egg laying,” the Indian Institute of Science researchers wrote in their paper. “There was no significant change in the number of eggs laid, their hatching capacity and hatching time between the UV-treated and untreated Paramacrobiotus BLR specimens.”
The scientists, after confirming that the new species was more resistant to radiation, then tried to transfer this protection to other organisms such as the roundworm, which is frequently used as a model in biological research.
They did not make genetic changes or anything like that, but rather worms wrapped in pigments from the skin of tardigrades, Gizmodo reports. But it worked – the treated worms were even more resistant to radiation, suggesting potential new ways to block dangerous radiation to other organisms in the future.