On Saturday, the American Museum of Natural History in New York opens a new exhibit called “Life at the Limits.” The show allows visitors to “explore the amazing super powers that animals, plants and other living organisms have developed to survive and thrive.”
The exhibit highlights the incredible resilience of animals like elephant seals, who dive deep into the ocean and regulate their bodies to stay underwater for nearly two hours without taking a breath.
Other impressive animals get a nod, too, but there's really one star of the show. It's the tardigrade, a teeny-tiny (a large one can be up to about .06 of an inch in length), invertebrate, 8-leg micro-animal that lives in water:
You may recall the tardigrade's brief rise to fame around this time last year:
The tiny "waterbears" or "moss piglets" were granted their fifteen minutes by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Seth MacFarlane, when the host and producer, respectively, of the Cosmos reboot talked tardigrades last March, and again last April:
Tardigrades deserve a tardi-comeback. Here's why:
They are basically nature's Twinkies
"Shedding almost all the water in its body, the tardigrade curls up into a dry husk. Baumann called this a "Tönnchenform", but it is now commonly known as a "tun". Its metabolism slows to 0.01% of the normal rate. It can stay in this state for decades, only reanimating when it comes into contact with water."
Extreme heat: They can withstand temperatures above 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Extreme cold: … and below -450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Outer space: Tardigrades were sent to space in their dehydrated state, without a space suit, and made it.
Time: Tardigrade fossils date back to 500 million years ago.
Plus, they've already got plenty of weird merch
Ready to jump on the <3 tardigrade bandwagon? There are already plenty of ways to express your devotion:
And, they make great pets… sort of
Sure, tardigrades won't make the cuddliest (or most visible) of companions, but if you ever want to stare deeply into a petri dish and contemplate the sheer, unlikely miracle of life, tardigrades may be right for you.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.