Scientists believe a tiny eight-legged creature will be the last surviving life form on Earth and could survive catastrophes including a massive asteroid impact.
The tardigrade can live up to 30 years without food or water, can endure temperatures from close to absolute zero to 150C, and even survive in space.
The bug-like organism, also known as a water bear, only measures around half a millimetre.
They have been found in all kinds of habitats from the Himalayas to the bottom of the sea, but most species live in a watery environment and can often be found living on lichens and mosses.
Research suggests tardigrades will outlive humans and are likely to be around for quite a while – another 10 billion years, or until the death of the sun.
They would likely survive all astrophysical calamities, including asteroids, exploding stars in the form of supernovae or gamma ray bursts, according to research from Oxford and Harvard universities.
The ability of tardigrades to survive should spur on the search for life on Mars, said the co-author of a report into the creatures.
“Tardigrades are as close to indestructible as it gets on Earth, but it is possible that there are other resilient species examples elsewhere in the universe,” said Dr Rafael Alves Batista from Oxford University
“In this context there is a real case for looking for life on Mars and in other areas of the solar system in general.”
The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports
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