3 min read

Earth’s Strangest Animal Is Basically An Indestructible Badass

They're one of nature's toughest survivors, found everywhere from the Himalayas to the deep sea, but chances are you've never seen a tardigrade.

That's because tardigrades - also known as "water bears" and "moss piglets" - are microscopic, generally measuring less than a millimeter long. But don't let their small size fool you: The tiny tardigrade is one of Earth's greatest creatures.

Quarz/Shutterstock.com

Quarz/Shutterstock.com

Scientists have found that tardigrades can withstand conditions that would kill almost every other life form, including years without food or water, temperatures ranging from below -450 degrees Fahrenheit to over 300 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures equaling almost 6,000 Earth atmospheres.

They've even survived the vacuum of space, the only animal to ever do so.

Flickr/waterbears

Because of these remarkable qualities, the tardigrade has become something of a viral sensation, stumbling his way through the news and social media. Researchers, however, have now discovered an even stranger fact about this bizarre organism.

Quarz/Shutterstock.com

Quarz/Shutterstock.com

After sequencing the tardigrade's DNA, a team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that almost 17.5 percent of the water bear's genetic material came from other organisms, including bacteria, plant and fungi.

Sharing genetic material isn't entirely uncommon among microorganisms, but according to the new study, the tardigrade has almost twice as much foreign DNA as has ever been found in an animal before.

So, congratulations to our planet's toughest little water-wiggler - you're more of a weirdo than we could have ever imagined.