The DNA of the very weird-looking microscopic invertebrate, the tardigrade or “water bear” has finally been sequenced, with the shocking discovery that up to one sixth of its genome comes from other species.
Is this the reason why they’re the only known Earthling that can survive in Outer Space and withstand temperatures from boiling to nearly absolute zero? One tardigrade was recently resurrected after 30 years of extreme desiccation by Japanese scientists and it went on to give birth to fertile offspring.
It is thought that the creatures’ ability to acquire exogenous genetics occurs during these episodes of near-death extremes and that this ability to adopt foreign genomes, in a process dubbed “horizontal gene transfer” is the secret to its near-immortality.
This has inevitably led scientists to try to speculate on ways to apply this ability to the human genome…