Volume 27 of the series Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology pp 597-607


Tardigrades: An Example of Multicellular Extremophiles

  • Dirk Schulze-MakuchAffiliated withSchool of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Washington State University Email author 
  • , Joseph SeckbachAffiliated withThe Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Life has expanded its living range into almost every environmental niche imaginable on Earth. These include habitats of extreme temperature, pressure, and pH ranges, and environments with low nutrient and oxygen availability, high salinity, and radiation exposure. However, not only microbes can survive in these harsh environments but also some higher complexity organisms such as fungi, plants, and even animals. Among the toughest animals in this respect are tardigrades. These microscopic animals, also called “water bears,” are metameric invertebrates that live in a wide range of habitats such as in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems. They possess various adaptation mechanisms such as cryptobiosis, which makes them astonishingly resistant to desiccation, extreme pressures, temperature, and radiation conditions. Thus, these multicellular organisms should be considered when assessing survival rates and evaluating analogue organisms for space travel and in extraterrestrial environments.