Tardigrade, those adorable, fat water bears, are notoriously sturdy – they can even survive an apocalypse that exterminates humanity.
But can these sturdy water bears survive shooting from a gun? New research has found that yes, these strong animals can make it alive, but they also have a breaking point.
The new study was inspired by uncertainty about the fate of latecomers who were on Israel’s Beresheet survey when it fell on the moon in 2019, according to Scientific journal. Did the latecomers, also called “water bears”, survive and pollute Earth’s lifeless companion?
Finally, these juvenile creatures, about 1 millimeter (1 mm) long or less, are famous for their indestructible nature. These rugged animals can withstand pressures up to six times the deepest part of the ocean, extreme amounts of radiation and even the vacuum of space, Live Science has previously reported.
Related: 8 reasons why we love delays
In the new study, a group of researchers from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom decided to test whether latecomers could also experience rapid effects. To do this, they fed the delays and then “put them to bed” – that is, they froze the animals into a hibernation mode called “tuna state”, in which their metabolism decreased to 0.1% their normal rate, a scientific journal reported. Then, the researchers fired the beasts, at different speeds, out of a “two-stage light gas gun,” which shoots objects taller than a typical gun.
They found that the delays could survive effects of nearly 3,000 feet per second (900 meters per second), resulting in about 1.14 gigapascals of pressure after impact. However, the latecomers perished due to higher pressures and effective speeds.
That means the latecomers on the Beresheet survey, which would have experienced shock pressure above that level when it crashed, would not survive, the scientists told the journal Science.
Even the latecomers, who experienced low and moderate rapid effects, took longer than control samples (which had recently been frozen and revived by the tuna state) to recover, “suggesting that some internal damage must be overcome,” the authors said. wrote. It is not clear whether the surviving laggards could later reproduce, and the authors also noted that testing whether laggard eggs could survive firing from guns for later development would also be a “fruitful study.”
The study has implications for a theory known as panspermia, which says that life could travel between worlds on meteorites after being ejected by asteroids that hit planets or moons. This study shows that panspermia is difficult but not impossible, the authors told Science.
About 40% of the rocks and debris that bounce from asteroid effects on our planet would hit the moon at speeds low enough to survive delays, the researchers said. A similar proportion could experience a trip from Mars to its moon Phobos. Of course, these findings apply only to delays; other life forms, such as microbes, can survive at higher efficiency rates, according to Science.
The research could also have implications for detecting life on other planets, the authors said. Spaceships that pass close to the icy feathers of aquatic worlds such as Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus may be able to collect potential life forms – with the same force as delayed ones – from ejected feathers, without killing them.
The findings were published in the journal on May 11 Astrobiology. Read more about these robust delays in Science.
Originally published in Life Science.