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Creation 40(1):27, January 2017

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Tardigrades too tough for evolution

Water bear (tardigrade) crawling over a surface


The toughest animals on Earth are the ‘tardigrades’—aka ‘moss piglets’, ‘bear animalcules’ or ‘water bears’. Mostly less than 1 mm (1/25 inch) long, they can survive conditions far worse than any they would ever experience on Earth.

For example, they can endure being frozen in liquid helium (-267ºC, or -452ºF), only a few degrees above absolute zero (-273.15ºC, or -459.67ºF), the lowest temperature possible. They can also survive being heated to 151ºC (304ºF), being put in a vacuum and bombarded with electrons, and being subjected to extraordinarily high water pressures, 600 MPa (6,000 atmospheres)—six times greater than at the bottom of Earth’s deepest ocean. And they can withstand being zapped with X-rays 250 times more intense than would kill a person.

Faced with extreme conditions, tardigrades curl in their head and legs tightly, roll up into a barrel-like shape, and shut down their metabolism—even their respiration stops completely. This resting stage, called a ‘tun’, is highly resistant to extreme conditions.

Recent research into this amazing resilience found that the radiation resistance of the tardigrade species Ramazzottius varieornatus was due to a special protein dubbed Dsup, (for ‘Damage suppression’).1,2 Dsup proteins surround the tardigrade’s DNA to protect it from radiation harm, while keeping all of its normal functions intact. Dsup can also clean out DNA-damaging agents known as reactive oxygen species. So when favourable circumstances return, the tardigrade revives—amazingly, showing no ill effects whatsoever.

However, in researching ‘how this works’, the tough question (for evolutionists) of ‘how did this come about?’ is generally evaded. The thing is, tardigrades are too tough for evolution to have brought them into existence.3 Natural selection can only select characteristics necessary for immediate survival. Consequently, evolution cannot be expected to over-engineer creatures for a host of environments they have never faced.4 Also, proteins around DNA would normally hinder reproduction; so, while the (designed) tardigrade Dsup brilliantly avoids this, selection would work against a partly-evolved version.

So anyone challenging Christianity by asking for evidence against evolution and for a Creator need look no further than the tardigrades. A tough lesson perhaps (John 3:19, 2 Thessalonians 2:11–12), but true.

References and notes

  1. Hashimoto, T. et al., Extremotolerant tardigrade genome and improved radiotolerance of human cultured cells by tardigrade-unique protein, Nature Communications 7:12808, 20 September 2016 | doi:10.1038/ncomms12808. Also comment same issue: Bittel, J. Tardigrade protein helps human DNA withstand radiation | doi:10.1038/nature.2016.20648. Return to text
  2. ‘Radiation shield’ found hidden in water bear genome, sciencemag.org, 20 September 2016. Return to text
  3. Vetter, J., The ‘little bears’ that evolutionary theory can’t bear!, Creation 12(2):16–18, 1990; creation.com/water-bearsReturn to text
  4. Catchpoole, D., Life at the extremes, Creation 24(1):40–44, 2001; creation.com/extremeReturn to text

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Readers’ comments

David B.
A great example of the many organisms that seem to stand in sheer defiance of the belief that all life evolved by natural processes without so much as any intelligent guidance or plan.

Spiders that build diving-bell habitats to live underwater! A recently-discovered spider's ability to catapult itself and its webbing at its prey! Woodpeckers with tongues that wrap around their heads! Anteaters with tongues anchored in their chests! Brazil nuts! Preying Mantises! Cephalopods! Bats, pterosaurs, and insects which fly and have absolutely NO transitional/gliding fossils! Coelacanths and many other living creatures that look like fossils supposedly hundreds of millions of years old, with drastic changes in the environment and a number of mass extinction between! Fireflies and other creatures with amazing bioluminescent abilities! Parajassa pelagica - a crustacean that builds an underwater nest! And if I had to pick a favorite: The barrel eye fish, with its eyes that can look straight up, inside a transparent head!

And then there's the incredible nanotechnology of molecular machines functioning within each of our cells, and in all life, including bacteria, such as the rotary motor that runs on hydrogen ions and electrons!

All that came about without an intelligent Creator? Can't get me to believe that!
Anitta T.
37 years ago on a radio program viruses were identified as being visitors from outer space due to their similarly tough outer coatings. That’s how “evilutionists” (as my friend calls them) explain creatures like this. This war against God will not end until Jesus returns.
Paul R.
Wow ..!!! I didn't even know this creature existed until today ...What an impressive CV it has !! The wonders of Gods' Creation never cease to amaze me , and 20 billion years of "evolution" would still be unable to come up with such a resilient creature !!! What an awesome Creator we have , and an equally awesome Redeemer !!!
John C.
i have always been attracted in my study of nature to the very large and the very small. It is fascinating that these small creatures (and many others) give such testimony to 'their great Original'. They are wonders and worthy to give our Creator all worship and praise.
John A.
When I showed this article to my wife, she asked, "Where do they live?"
According to Wiki, they live on mountaintops, at deep sea levels, in tropical rain forests, at the Antarctic.
Amazing creatures.

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