It’s no secret that tardigrades — also known as water bears — are nearly indestructible, but a new study from Harvard and Oxford University highlights just how durable the tiny critters are. According to the study, water bears will outlive everyone on Earth in the face of catastrophes and mass extinction events, and will in fact persist to live until the Sun itself dies.
While a catastrophe could fairly easily eliminate life on Earth, it would take considerably more to get rid of tardigrades, according to the study. The researchers found that tardigrades can withstand any and all possible astrophysical catastrophes, meaning they could outlive all the living plants and animals on the planet.
Assuming one of those astrophysical catastrophes does happen, water bears could continue to live on for another 10 billion years…at the least, that is. This officially makes tardigrades the most durable living animal (well, micro-animal) on our planet. These creatures can withstand radiation, go through 30 years between meals, handle the vacuum of space, the pressure of the deep sea, and temperatures up to 150 degrees celsius / 302 Fahrenheit.
The micro-animal itself can live up to 60 years (meaning it can go half of its life without food). You’ve probably never seen one outside of a microscope, though, as these microscopic animals top out at lengths of about 0.5mm. It would take the Sun itself dying to destroy these animals, something that makes the likelihood of finding life on other planets seem more plausible. After all, humans and all other life on Earth could end tomorrow but tardigrades would remain for billions of years after.