The tardigrade – an eight-legged micro-animal – has been named the world's most indestructible species, after scientists discovered that the creature will survive until the Sun dies.
Researchers from University of Oxford in the UK found that the tardigrade will survive the risk of extinction from all astrophysical catastrophes, and be around for at least 10 billion years – far longer than the human race.
Although much attention has been given to the cataclysmic impact that an astrophysical event would have on human life, very little has been published around what it would take to kill the tardigrade, and wipe out life on this planet.
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, implies that life on Earth, in general, will extend as long as the Sun keeps shining.
It also reveals that once life emerges, it is surprisingly resilient and difficult to destroy, opening the possibility of life on other planets.
Tardigrades are the toughest, most resilient form of life on Earth, able to survive for up to 30 years without food or water, and endure temperature extremes of up to 150 degrees Celsius, the deep sea and even the frozen vacuum of space.
The water-dwelling micro animal, also known as the water bear, can live for up to 60 years, and grow to a maximum size of 0.5 millimetres (mm), best seen under a microscope.
Researchers, including those from Harvard University in the US, have found that these life forms will likely survive all astrophysical calamities, such as an asteroid, since they will never be strong enough to boil off the world's oceans.
Three potential events were considered as part of their research, including; large asteroid impact, and exploding stars in the form of supernovae or gamma ray bursts.
"Without our technology protecting us, humans are a very sensitive species," said Rafael Alves Batista, post-doctoral research associate at Oxford University.
"Subtle changes in our environment impact us dramatically. There are many more resilient species' on Earth. Life on this planet can continue long after humans are gone," Batista said.
"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.
"In this context there is a real case for looking for life on Mars and in other areas of the solar system in general. If Tardigrades are Earth's most resilient species, who knows what else is out there," he said.