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Secret Behind The Resiliency Of The Earth's Hardest Animal, Tardigrade, Revealed

Secret Behind The Resiliency Of The Earth's Hardest Animal, Tardigrade, Revealed

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First Posted: Sep 21, 2016 01:43 AM EDT
Collembola from the drainage of a hot spring in Lassen County, California
Tardigrade known as water bear is considered the Earth's most durable organisms. Darron Birgenheier / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

Tardigrades or also known as water bears and moss piglets are the most durable organisms. They can live for more than 30 years without food and water, withstand an extreme weather condition and even survive in space. So, what is the secret of this earth's toughest animal?

The findings of the study, which were published in the journal Nature Communications, reveals a protein that protects its DNA from radiation. The study was led by geneticist Takekazu Kunieda and colleagues from the University of Tokyo, according to Gizmodo.

In the study, the researchers were able to identify a number of genes and biological processes that are accountable for the incredible survival skills of the tardigrades. They found that the genome of the tardigrades has more copies of an anti-oxidant enzyme and a DNA repair gene than any other animal. These could make tardigrade counteract oxidative stress when it is dehydrated and repair its damaged DNA.

The protein that binds itself to DNA, which is dubbed as Dsup, shield it against x-ray radiation. It prevents the DNA from breaking apart. This is the reason why tardigrades can survive the vacuum of space and withstand the radiation. The researchers said that if this protein could be transferred to humans, this could enhance the human's tolerance against X-rays and the tardigrade biology could make humans adaptable to space.

Prof. Mark Blaxter from the University of Edinburgh described the study as groundbreaking. He further said that this is the first time a particular protein from a tardigrade has been shown to be active in radiation protection and radiation is one of the things that's guaranteed to kill you, as noted by BBC.

Tardigrade is the microscopic animal, which is water-dwelling and eight-legged. Its name Tardigrada means "slow stepper." It can be found everywhere from mountain tops, sea, tropical rainforest and even to the Antarctic. It is first discovered by Johann August Ephraim Goeze, a German zoologist, in 1773.


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