In 1983, Japanese researchers froze a sample of water-swelling micro-animals commonly referred to as water bears. Now, after more than 30 years, the microscopic creatures are revived and have begun to reproduce.
Researchers from Tokyo’s National Institute of Polar Research found water bears, officially known as tardigrades, in a frozen moss sample in Antarctica in 1983. The sample of tardigrades was to be kept frozen and stored in lab for the next 30 years.
According to a report released in the journal Cryobiology in February 2016, the creatures were carefully and slowly thawed out in May 2014 over the course of 24 hours. The experiment was successful and two tardigrades were revived, while an egg found alongside them began to hatch. Previously, the longest amount of time in which a tardigrade survived being frozen was eight years.
Tardigrades are so loved in the world of biology that a group of researchers at the University of North Carolina launched the International Society of Tardigrade Hunters, which seeks to promote appreciation of the fascinating creatures among the general public.
Besides the fact that the micro-animals can survive in frozen conditions for more than 30 years, tardigrades have fascinated the science community because of the long list of their impressive abilities. The creatures are able to stop their metabolic processes, removing 97-99 percent of their total moisture, which allows them to be revived after a long period frozen. The creatures have also been known to survive radiation nearly 100 times more powerful than humans can survive.
“They are probably the most extreme survivors that we know of among animals,” biologist Bob Goldstein of the University of North Carolina told Wired.
The creatures are only about a half millimeter long on average and their anatomy is much like a scaled down version of what can be found in larger animals, making them even more fascinating to scientists. There are roughly 1,000 species of them, as well, notes Today I Found Out.