The fossil of a 16-million-year-old organism also known as a tardigrade, has been discovered trapped inside a piece of amber. The organism’s discovery was released months after researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Harvard University began studying it. According to a report, the fossil, named Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus, was discovered in the Republic of Dominica, in an area known for its so much amber remains.
Tardigrades, also known as water bears and moss piglets, are tiny organisms known for their sticky grip. Their strong body allows them to be able to bear extreme dehydration, freezing temperatures, and even harmful radiation. Tardigrades can even bear a bomb attack, for those who don’t know how tough they are. Furthermore, according to a report, they are the smallest known animals with legs and can walk like creatures 5,00,000 times their size. Experts believe that these organisms were first seen 500 million years ago and have survived at least five huge extinctions, including the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.
The fossil allowed researchers to see how the tardigrade evolved when compared to the modern tardigrades, allowing them to get a clear picture of how they’ve evolved over millions of years.
Tiny tardigrades looked like water bears when viewed through a microscope. Despite the fact that they are commonly found in water. Tardigrades are well-known for their ability to survive even in harsh environments.
Close observational analysis aided the researchers in determining where the new tardigrade species fits into the tardigrade family tree.
There’s a reason they’re known as the toughest creatures on the planet. Experts say the tardigrade fossil has been discovered after months of observation. The organism was stuck inside the fossil millions of years ago, a tree resin that was mixed with parts of a flower, three ants, and a beetle. The study’s senior author, described the discovery as once in a generation in the science journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Interestingly, this tardigrade fossil is first discovered from the era after dinosaurs, which started around 66 million years ago and is also known as the Cenozoic, or ongoing era.
These fat, tiny animals are only one millimetre long. They have eight legs with sharp nails at the ends, a brain and central nervous system, and a structure behind their mouth called a pharynx that can pierce food. Tardigrades are the smallest animals who are known to have legs.
What makes tardigrades so special is that they are old creatures that have seen everything on Earth, from the extinction of dinosaurs to the growth of plant terrestrial colonisation. Even with almost no fossil record, they are like a unknown creature for palaeontologists. Finding any tardigrade fossil remains is a big achievement because everyone can see their evolution through Earth history.
And tardigrades have the potential to outlive humans. It’s because they’d be largely unaffected by things like asteroids, supernovae, and gamma ray bursts, which could potentially be risky to Earth and human life in the future. Tardigrades will survive as long as the world’s oceans do not boil over.