The tardigrade is tiny. Each is just about the size of a period. This picture was taken with an electron microscope. (William Miller via AP)

The tardigrade is tiny. Each is just about the size of a period. This picture was taken with an electron microscope. (William Miller via AP)

Tardigrades have round mouths to suck up food. (AP)

Tardigrades have round mouths to suck up food. (AP)

This photo was taken with a microscope. Under a microscope, tardigrades are nearly transparent. (Thomas Boothby via AP)

This photo was taken with a microscope. Under a microscope, tardigrades are nearly transparent. (Thomas Boothby via AP)

Tardigrades have four to eight claws on each foot. (William Miller via AP)

Tardigrades have four to eight claws on each foot. (William Miller via AP)

The small animals can survive extreme heat, cold, radiation, and even zero gravity like in space. (William Miller/Baker University via AP)

The small animals can survive extreme heat, cold, radiation, and even zero gravity like in space. (William Miller/Baker University via AP)

Tiny, but EXTREME

Posted: November 1, 2021

Some creatures can survive harsh conditions. Some love harsh conditions. Snow? Salt? Heat? Volcanic acid? If these microorganisms could talk, they would say, “Bring it on!”

We have a name for these critters: extremophiles. Extremophiles are microscopic creatures that live in extreme conditions. Scientists watch these amazing, tiny organisms. They wonder, What makes them so hardy? What can they teach us that will help humans?

You may have heard of water bears, or tardigrades. These favorite extremophiles look part chubby bear and part one-eyed alien. No water? No worries. Tardigrades survive. Antarctic cold, 300-degree heat, a lack of oxygen, and even radiation don’t stop these itty-bitty beasties. They live all over Earth: on mountaintops, deep in the ocean, and maybe even in your driveway.

In 2007, scientists launched tardigrades into space. The water bears were exposed to cold, airless space full of radiation from the Sun and stars. A person in that situation would explode! But tardigrades lived. Later, they multiplied.

How might they be useful? Biologists suggest putting their tiny genes into crops to help them survive drought. And could tardigrades help us find a way to use vaccines without refrigerating them?

From single-celled organisms to mammoth blue whales, God created an Earth teeming with life. Some parts of Earth are hard places to live. They’re extremely sunny, salty, cold, acidic, or pressurized. Still, wherever scientists search—ocean depths, volcanic springs, solid ice—they find flourishing organisms. After all, God made His creation “very good.”

In the next story, you’ll meet some more small living things with extreme survival skills. Can they give us ideas to protect, diagnose, and treat humans?

For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible. — Colossians 1:16

Why? Studying the extremes of God’s creation reveals to us His power and His perfect care for even the tiniest of details.