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Water bears will survive the end of the world as we know it

Only one calamity could kill tardigrades — and chances of that happening are slim

11:40am, July 14, 2017

LIFE GOES ON  They may look like microscopic caterpillars, but don’t let their quaint appearance fool you — water bears are no joke. These creatures, shown here in a 3-D rendered illustration, will probably soldier on long after humans are gone.

Water bears may be Earth’s last animal standing.

These tough little buggers, also known as tardigrades, could keep calm and carry on until the sun boils Earth’s oceans away billions of years from now, according to a new study that examined water bears’ resistance to various astronomical disasters. This finding, published July 14 in Scientific Reports, suggests that complex life can be extremely difficult to destroy, which bodes well for anyone hoping Earthlings have cosmic company.

Most previous studies of apocalyptic astronomical events — like asteroid impacts, neighboring stars going supernova or insanely energetic explosions called gamma-ray bursts — focused on their threat to humankind. But researchers wanted to know what it would take to annihilate one of the world’s most resilient creatures, so they turned to tardigrades. 

The tardigrade is

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