Don’t let the picture of that weirdly adorable little microbe that accompanies this article fool you. That badass is the Tardigrade. And it’s tough as nails. Sent to space unprotected and survived, it’s so hardcore. So superheroic that it survived all five mass extinctions. I bow down in awe to this, the toughest sumbitch on this planet.
Like some weird love child of Colossus and Wolverine, this extremophile beastie earns its awesome status because it can dry out into a hard husk, called a tun, and it has wild regenerative properties. Some species are bisexual and some are asexual too.
But we’re learning a lot from these least of us group. Microbes they may be, but their regenerative skills are larger than life and the scientific community is learning more about them all the time. Just the Tardigrade’s ability to use horizontal gene transfer would enable humanity to adapt far more than anything else.
Imagine the knowledge we could gain from these little creatures! Cryonics would be a viable technological reality, brought into being by studying the Tradigrade’s use of trehalose, a sugar protein. Volcanology and geothermal sciences could advance by leaps and bounds once we figure out how these beasts tolerate such high temperatures.
I have to say though, space travel is where it’s really at. The ability to withstand such concentrated radiation in space would get us much further. We could travel longer distances with far better resistance to all types of radiation. And with those extremophile genes spliced into ours, astronauts might even survive an accidental exposure to the vacuum of space.
I guess dynamite does come in small packages, scientifically speaking.
Author of LGBT romance and speculative fiction.