What is the toughest animal on earth?

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THIS small 1.0 mm animal can survive both the hottest and coldest environments on earth, and can even stand high levels of radiation. Do you know what that is? This incredible creature is tardigrade, or commonly known as water bear.

Most organisms need water to survive, in which water supports the metabolism in cells. But tardigrade surprisingly gets around this restriction by the process called anhydrobiosis (Greek for “life without water”). They do this by curling up their head and eight legs inside their body, and start to synthesise special molecules that fill their cells up to replace loss of water by forming a matrix. Vital cellular components namely DNA, proteins and membranes get trapped in this matrix. This keeps these molecules locked in position, stop them from unfolding, breaking apart or fusing together. Once the organism is rehydrated,
the matrix dissolves and regains cell activities.

Beyond dryness, tardigrades can also tolerate other extreme stresses: being frozen, heated up past the boiling point of water, high levels of radiation, or even the vacuum of the outer space. Scientists believe that this creature evolved overtime; in fact this earthly evolution has given rise to over 11,000 known species of tardigrades, and there are probably many others yet to be discovered. They can be found everywhere on earth, all you need is just a little patience and a microscope!

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The Petri Dish is malaysia’s first dedicated science newspaper. Through The Petri Dish we aim to engage the public on the latest developments on biotechnology.