It takes something truly extraordinary, like maybe the death of the Sun, to kill the near-indestructible invertebrate known as the tardigrade. Crash-landings on the Moon, a lack of oxygen and conditions in the darkest corners of the ocean don’t appear pose a threat to this critter’s livelihood. Scientists studying these so-called water bears have uncovered a neat trick they employ to endure inhospitable conditions, using a unique protein to generate protective clouds around their DNA.
In about 5 billion years’ time, our Sun will use up its reserves of hydrogen and begin to cool down and expand, cooking the Earth in a miasma of heat and radiation. Given our current trajectory, humans will probably be long gone by then anyway, but at least one lifeform will likely still be plodding along: the utterly unkillable tardigrade. According to a new study from Harvard and Oxford, it’ll take nothing short of the death of the Sun to finally do the species in – which bodes well for the resilience of life as a whole.