Any time I can talk about Tardigrades, you can bet good money I’m going to do exactly that. These little “bears” have so much potential in science. They do all the things, and it’s my personal belief that trans-human modification will start with enhancements from gene-splicing with Tardigrades. Especially with the problems we’re still trying to solve with deep space exploration.
Macrobiotus naginae are a soil type Tardigrade. At this rate, there will be more types of these suckers than Pokemon. The specialty of these ones is the ability to live in arid conditions. Deserts. Cold ones too.
If humans can manage to isolate what makes the water bears capable of all these superpowers, at the genetic level, forget any other branches of science for a good long time. Splice people with the ability to survive the vacuum of space? That’s something we’ll definitely use. Radiation resistance? We need that here on Earth, not just space. Heavy pressure tolerance? Yeah, that too.
And with CRISPR in the mix, human modification of this kind isn’t some pipe dream. I think the only real obstacle to mixing Tardigrade and human DNA is public opinion. I mean, plenty of people are all in for human/predator genetic mixing, but with a microbe? Yeah, right. The struggle alone to swing opinion in favor of human/microbe mixing is worth a grand novel on its own. Pick a natural disaster and there’s a Tardigrade perfectly matched to conquer it.
Once past that hurdle, the possibilities are endless. Generational ship with humans able to enter a tun state. Radiation resistant humans for clean up of places like Chernobyl, or for initial colonization efforts of other worlds. Water scarcity would be a whole lot less trouble in a dry, post apocalypse Earth.
Have fun with all of this. It doesn’t solve all issues, but if you’re needing a plausible science explanation in your writing, this might be the answer you’re looking for.
Science in the pursuit of fiction.