5 Reasons Why The Tardigrade Is Nature’s Toughest Animal

Earth’s most tenacious creature can live in boiling water, solid ice, and the intense radiation of space. It can survive a decade in a desert, without a drop of water to drink, or in the deepest trenches of the sea.

Meet the tardigrade.


This week on COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey, Neil deGrasse Tyson introduced viewers to the tardigrade, or the water bear. The small aquatic invertebrates are nearly invincible, able to tolerate conditions and temperatures that would kill nearly any other living creature.


So what gives the tiny tardigrade its enormous strength? Find out below.

1. Tardigrades change form to survive without water.

When faced with extreme conditions, tardigrades can dry out completely, replacing almost of the water in their bodies with a sugar called trehalose. As a result, they’re able to survive environments that would otherwise kill them.


2. Tardigrades’ minuscule size hides them from predators.

For all their resilience, the tardigrade is one of nature’s smallest creatures. Barely the size of a poppy seed at less than 1.5 millimeters long, the tardigrade can exist hidden in sediments and seas, unnoticed by potential predators.


3. Tardigrades’ mouths contain sharp daggers.

Though they may be little, they are fierce! The tardigrade’s mouth is a serious weapon, its dagger-like teeth used to spear algae and even other small animals.


4. Tardigrades traveled to space – and survived.

To test the true resilience of tardigrades, Swedish researcher K. Ingemar Jonsson from Kristianstad University launched tardigrades into space on the FOTON-M3 spacecraft on low-Earth orbit in 2007. Exposed to open space conditions, most of the tardigrades survived exposure to vacuum and cosmic rays, with some even surviving deadly levels of UV radiation.


5. They’ve been around longer than nearly every other living organism.

Tardigrades roamed the earth and seas far before humans did – and will most likely outlast us. Will the tardigrades be nature’s last organisms standing? Only time will tell.


Want more incredible scientific facts? Tune in to the next episode of COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey on Monday, March 24 at 10P.


  1. Stephane lacasa
    March 24, 2014, 1:19 am

    I just change my last name to Tardigrades 🙂

  2. Mike Shaw
    Richmond, VA
    March 25, 2014, 7:45 pm

    Thanks for a great episode of cosmos. I loved the way you animated the tardigrade and showed it in a natural setting.

    I hope you don’t mind that I posted this article on my tardigrade website.

    Thanks again!
    Mike Shaw

  3. Brooke
    March 26, 2014, 10:12 am

    That thing is literally repulsive…

  4. […] 5 Reasons Why The Tardigrade Is Nature’s Toughest Animal […]

  5. Catherine perrie
    Stirling Scotland
    April 14, 2014, 7:28 pm

    What a wonderful little being. The face is certainly different but watching them scamper around they become Taking and if not lovable another part of Gods Creation

  6. Jeff
    April 14, 2014, 7:28 pm

    Does it eat fungus? is this nature’s answer to our contaminating water?

  7. dana
    April 14, 2014, 7:38 pm

    Thanks for looking at these fascinating creatures.

  8. Jem
    April 14, 2014, 7:56 pm

    Very interesting!

  9. Nicolas Delille
    April 14, 2014, 8:52 pm

    Hi I’m a 3D artist

    In one of your issues, I discovered this amazing animal. That inspired me this version



  10. Denis Taillon
    St-Jacques le mineur (PQ)
    April 14, 2014, 8:54 pm

    J’ai bien aimé votre publication , moi qui adore tout ce qui est nature et espace comme tout ce qui se trouve sous les eaux de notre planète. Je suis un fervent de National Geographique. Merci de partager .

  11. Njermel
    April 14, 2014, 9:16 pm

    You also can’t escape them by playing dead

  12. yourrealdad
    April 14, 2014, 9:29 pm

    We need more shows like Cosmos and not shitty reality tv

  13. Randy
    April 14, 2014, 10:24 pm

    SOmeone should put these tough creature in Mars… That’s there ultimate test…. Living Creatures in Mars… I like the thought of that!!

  14. Orlando Adona Calcetas
    April 14, 2014, 10:25 pm

    I am just amazed that this very resilient creature can survive the torment of nature but simply without a purpose or food chain to complete. Possibly we don’t know everything yet about this ultimate polar/desert bear animal, I think he/she is on the top of the food chain for unknown reason we don’t know yet. Good luck Mr. Tyson.

  15. Anonymous
    April 14, 2014, 11:17 pm

    Send that to planet Mars.

  16. Atul
    April 14, 2014, 11:48 pm

    Daenerys Targaryen also survived but she is the last one. so let see what will happen with Tardigrade. 😛 😛 😀

  17. andromeda
    April 15, 2014, 2:02 am

    i love tardigrades.

  18. waheed
    April 15, 2014, 3:54 am

    Can it survive with out Oxygen?

  19. Secret Researcher
    April 15, 2014, 4:40 am

    I am trying to learn to repair my DNA as fast as tardigrades so that I can withstand radiation. Will let this be known to the world for free so that every one can adapt well in space. seems earth aint enough

  20. Mayank
    April 15, 2014, 4:46 am

    So are the Tardigrades a threat to human beings or they can prove to be helpful in some way?

  21. Minju Kim
    South Korea
    April 15, 2014, 6:17 am


    They look like even pets.. 😉

  22. skyla
    April 15, 2014, 7:12 am

    I wish my pet was a tardigrade that would be so cool

  23. erika uys
    April 15, 2014, 7:16 am

    Is it really a living creature or is it a hoax.?

  24. Andy
    April 15, 2014, 8:40 am

    And why haven’t we heard of these before? Truly amazing!

  25. Andy Thompson
    United States
    April 15, 2014, 9:05 am

    Most of these attributes are characteristic of all microscopic organisms, protozoa, nematodes, rotifers, tardigrades etc. Except for #2: the fact that its small does not mean it doesn’t have predators; it simply has predators that are relative to its size, ie microarthropods, micrometozoans, and some protozoa.

  26. Mercy
    April 15, 2014, 9:51 am

    I don’t know but it looks like it has little hands? Thank God those things ( Tardigrade) is so small. Imagine if it starts to get bigger? Eww

  27. vasanthi vallbai
    April 15, 2014, 3:02 pm

    now only i heard about it vow seeing its mouth part …eventhough a small creature it has tremendous qualities..thankyou

  28. brian alford
    ocean park wa. USA
    April 16, 2014, 6:09 am

    The way Tyson blends science with the Tao is amazing!

  29. Frank
    April 16, 2014, 2:55 pm

    They seem a bit tardy.

  30. […] extremophiles on Cosmos (they can survive heat, cold, drought, radiation and even space. C lick here for some nice close-ups of what we’re looking for. I’ll let you know what we […]

  31. Rajapandian
    India - Tamilnadu
    May 30, 2014, 7:33 am

    Wow! Amazing…..make use of this creature..this could help humanity

  32. Brendan Beamer
    Texas, USA
    May 31, 2014, 4:52 pm

    Honestly, I think they look both grotesque and absolutely adorable at the same time. I just don’t know.

  33. Hisham
    San Jose
    June 1, 2014, 1:49 am

    1.5mm long, how can that go un-noticed? I always stare at the glass of water but didn’t find any creatures or tardigrades. Maybe I should look at the dew drop.

    A little correction on point 4, line 3, the word “space conditions” is misspelled. Thanks!

  34. Ashwin
    June 23, 2014, 12:13 pm

    These creatures are best in the Universe
    Because of these creatures I want create something new

  35. Ashwin
    June 23, 2014, 12:16 pm

    These creatures can show a path to travel around the Universe.

  36. Nitin soni
    mahendergarh/ india
    July 5, 2014, 6:18 am

    no doubt it will remain on earth after humans also. but i hope they don’t increase to a size of a car or a cargo ship

  37. Manuel
    July 8, 2014, 2:27 am

    Impressive. Technology might develop something revolutonary with the help of creatures like these…

  38. george
    August 11, 2014, 4:41 am

    tradigrades ae 1.5 mil and can survive for a decade in the desert without a drob of water 😀 what is that creature it is very strong i like it

  39. Goodfello
    August 12, 2014, 3:36 pm

    Must say phenomenal!but couple questions here tho-how long can they surviue in boiling water?which animal could possibly prey on them?frow history,every other mammal pretty much evolved from figures nearly different from what they are today?if they’ve been ever of old before man,let’s have pictures similar to those computer generated images of dinosaurs.either way,fantastic discovery.GODBLESS

  40. […] determine that another type of modern organisms, the tardigrades or “water bears“. Now these microscopic guys are tough! Just to give you an idea, they are the first class of animals able to survive the vacuum of space! […]

  41. Plain Jane
    August 23, 2014, 4:13 pm

    They are adorable. I love all of God’s creatures!

  42. manoj saini
    August 25, 2014, 3:32 pm

    really greatfull to know this fact neil sir

  43. michael shem labor
    September 5, 2014, 4:14 am

    Could they survive inside our stomachs when we accidentally or unknowingly swallow them?

  44. Lianner
    September 8, 2014, 5:25 pm

    Am I the only one who finds these things adorable. They have like eight little arms paddling around like a friggin’ i-dont-even-know, it’s so cute owo

  45. Julez
    September 9, 2014, 9:58 pm

    So funny to read someone repeatedly post their statement of a diety when their limited thinking can’t comprehend how something exists so they put “God” in front of it to make it easier for them to grasp. These same people think the universe is 6000 years old. Sigh….Thank you Neil Degrasse for opening SOME of our minds.

  46. carl trussell
    September 10, 2014, 2:35 pm

    i feel sorry for bigots & haters like julez

  47. dr, s.
    September 10, 2014, 2:50 pm

    this sounds like an amazing animal. it makes you wonder what else is out there that we have not even found yet!
    also, some people need to stop hating & living a life of bigotry & disdan for others.

  48. Laura
    September 18, 2014, 7:50 pm

    Tardigrades are so cute and smushy, according to my son. We are fascinated by these critters and want to get a microscope so we can try to find them.

  49. Hari krishnan.L
    September 24, 2014, 7:56 am

    Really awesome program, thanks to NAT GEO, This is very useful my knowledge.,

  50. […] learn about these tiny creatures? My eight-year-old looked them up online, so we were able to view some photos and film taken of them under high-powered microscopes. We read more about them, and we also learned that […]

  51. Max
    October 16, 2014, 9:15 pm

    Jules has a point. Not that all who believe in God believe the Earth to only be 6,000 years old… But I’m sure some of these people follow that belief of Christianity and it’s funny to see people showing such love toward something that completely defies that “understanding”.

  52. Indu
    New york
    December 6, 2014, 7:09 pm

    I really like the way Cosmos id done, .We really need these kind of shows to stimulate our mind . Children can be motivated to look at the things differently and think beyond .
    Great work.

  53. Jan l'Amie
    The Netherlands
    December 21, 2014, 2:37 pm

    Place some moss from a rock or something in a glass of water for about a few hours and place a drop of the sediment on the bottom unther the microscope. You will find water bears for sure.

  54. scott morrow
    December 28, 2014, 7:45 am

    I love these little dudes. .

  55. DreadMon Fya
    New Jersey U.S.A.
    January 6, 2015, 2:56 am

    I believe that someday man will harness the technology needed to hold human life in a state of suspended animation. Doing so will allow mankind to embark on an interstellar voyage, to trek amongst the stars, perhaps colonizing earth like planets. It would be amazing if we could learn this from the tardigrades and other organisms similar to it.!

  56. […] Fox / Via tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com […]

  57. David Laiton
    January 16, 2015, 1:43 am

    Man forget Chuck Norris these little guys know how to roll!!

    Maybe Bear Grylls can get some survival advice from the little dudes

  58. tardigrade 2.0
    alpha centuri
    January 22, 2015, 8:35 pm

    Finally, my crew has landed on earth, we can now conquer civilizations

  59. Steve
    January 24, 2015, 4:30 am

    I’m going to get about 5000 of them and put them in my fish tank…(no fish though). They’d outlive my fish and be more entertaining!

  60. Sarfaraz
    January 24, 2015, 5:45 am

    Wow! Best case to present for managers looking to extract the best out of their employees! “Spartans!!! Morph to Tardigrades!!!!”

  61. David Bandel
    January 24, 2015, 5:52 am

    Something tells me that now that we’ve noticed them, they may be screwed.

  62. […] 5 Reasons Why The Tardigrade Is Nature’s Toughest Animal – Nat Geo TV Blogs. […]

  63. Squeeze
    January 24, 2015, 7:02 am

    “Waterbear”, ekoostik Hookah:

  64. Shane Gannon
    January 24, 2015, 9:27 am

    Small typo – you’re missing an “all”

    “..can dry out completely, replacing almost of the…”

    should be

    “..can dry out completely, replacing almost all of the…”

    The article is so interesting I missed it the first time & filled in the “all” automatically. But I wanted to be sure I understood the point so I re-read and noticed this.

  65. The Tardigrade | PsychoNauts
    January 24, 2015, 1:24 pm

    […] read more  […]

  66. pirah sikandar
    January 24, 2015, 10:38 pm

    what colour is it? pnk or green?
    where can i find it? in wàter or on lànd?where is it found most asia, africa europe or where?

  67. […] Closing: Tardigrade; “Nobody’s paying attention anymore? Good! Scrap the plans to scale back mass […]

  68. […] 9. A small aquatic invertebrate known as tardigrade, or the water bear has survived all five mass extinction events. It can live in boiling water, solid ice, and the intense radiation of space. It can survive a decade in a desert, without a drop of water to drink, or in the deepest trenches of the sea. – Source […]

  69. […] official: the Tardigrade is one of my new favorite living […]

  70. […] better. (For the record, Moss Piglets AKA Water Bears AKA Tardigrades are real animals – click for more info –  but to me, they are emblematic of mental […]

  71. […] Fox / Via tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com […]

  72. Ben
    March 10, 2015, 11:20 am

    I really love tardigrades

  73. Fahd Islam
    March 10, 2015, 10:50 pm

    I seriously thought that first picture was a close up of an uncircumcised penis.

  74. ATownClown
    United States
    March 18, 2015, 4:29 pm

    Sounds like something deGrasse Tyson made up. Aren’t these the things made into that stuff you put on fried fish?

  75. […] of all that business about size and distance and maths. I wonder f I should be as little as a tardigrade, one of the most awesome power animals on the […]

  76. Abhinav
    March 25, 2015, 8:06 am

    It’s not just about a tiny animal.
    According to veda shastra during the satya,treta and dwapar yugas humans can also do the same things like visiting another planets,galaxies universes and infiverses without feeling radiations,gravitational effects and many more unknown energy and forces.
    I think they knew how to use the powers of tardigrades on their own.
    Was it?
    Not sure but working on it.

  77. Unknown
    March 31, 2015, 11:42 am

    this is for my science project
    lets send them to mars , this is the ultimate test.

  78. corey
    United States
    April 5, 2015, 7:18 pm

    Can they eat cancer? Maybe they could be injected into our veins to eat plaque and clear blockage! Little colon cleaners lol.

  79. Water bears
    April 6, 2015, 6:31 am

    […] […]

  80. Dakota hoffman
    April 6, 2015, 9:59 am

    This organism is truly amazing. To think an organism like this can survive unbelievable conditions and return virtually unscathed it truly remarkable.

  81. manendra
    April 9, 2015, 12:07 am

    good i like all things
    of cosmos. i m never miss any episode of cosmos

  82. Rachael Martin
    United States
    May 10, 2015, 9:46 am

    IT’S SO CUTE ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ HOLY PIZZA

  83. Jim
    June 18, 2015, 5:10 pm

    Concercing putting Tardigras on Mars. Doubt they want to do that as it would contaminated the planet. However they should test areas to see if they are already there

  84. kelas tardi
    June 20, 2015, 8:17 pm

    Good! How long its can survive in space?

  85. Pam
    July 2, 2015, 1:28 pm

    Way to go Water Bear!

  86. Kevin
    July 8, 2015, 3:14 am

    Do they live inside of people?

  87. […] common are tardigrades? Could there be tardigrades in our own back […]

  88. Becca
    Chicago, Illinois
    November 5, 2015, 2:00 am

    That is gross looking but very interesting.

  89. Ted McGovern
    New Jersey
    November 29, 2015, 12:51 am

    Remarkable. Maybe these creatures are from space by way of meteor?

  90. Who knows mabye Kim jon un?
    My face
    January 14, 2016, 1:41 pm

    watar bars r da bumb liek shanic da hedgededog

  91. […] Tardigrades, found across the world, are renowned for being tough and have previously survived several days after being blasted into space. […]

  92. […] Tardigrades, found living in water across the world, are renowned for being tough and have previously survived several days after being blasted into space. […]

  93. bob
    February 8, 2016, 11:46 am

    If they decide to take over the world, there is nothing stopping them!

  94. Minimal Scrollytelling | Rufposten
    February 9, 2016, 11:27 am

    […] in letzter Zeit häufig sehr knackige, kurze Multimediatexte wie z.b. diesen sehr charmanten Beitrag über das nicht minder charmante Bärtierchen. Ein guter Kniff, um einen vorhandenen Videobeitrag in einen Multimedia-Text zu verwandeln, ohne […]

  95. Yo-ghurt
    March 14, 2016, 9:42 pm


  96. Ramon Troiano
    Schenectady, New York
    June 20, 2016, 7:01 am

    Wow…what an amazing little critter!…

  97. netaer
    September 20, 2016, 7:53 am

    What would happen if you put Tardigrades all over you body. Would you have made an armor stronger than Captain America’s Vibranium shield?

  98. JC
    September 20, 2016, 7:21 pm

    Looks like a yummy bear. What flavor do they come in?

  99. 6 Aquatic Creatures with Amazing Abilities
    October 18, 2016, 7:39 am

    […] creatures are the most tenacious and extreme survival experts on this planet. Tardigrades, or the water bear, are less than 1.5 millimetres in length, but can withstand and live in boiling water, solid ice, […]

  100. U=(N/T)M*G: Water Bear – Queer Sci Fi
    December 4, 2016, 10:48 am

    […] 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 […]

  101. aaron
    January 25, 8:35 am

    good website hope this has helped me to know what this is

  102. rahul kumar bhakat
    February 15, 6:28 am

    Tardigrades, found living in water across the world, are renowned for being tough and have previously survived several days after being blasted into space.

  103. DS13
    February 26, 9:44 am

    I love tardigrades!

  104. jahniya
    March 8, 2:27 pm


  105. jahniya
    March 8, 2:28 pm

    omg tardgigrades afanisling little criters they make me want to giz on my mommy a

  106. jahniya
    March 8, 2:30 pm


  107. sdkjfb
    new york
    May 8, 9:15 am