Tardigrades, the tiny creatures also known as water bears, are a house favorite at Boing Boing. Able to survive in the most extreme conditions, from alcohol immersion to empty space, their resilience poses difficult scientific questions. Scientists believe they've found the answer, and have published their findings in Molecular Cell.
Wired's Matt Simon writes:
…researchers claim they've found an exclusively tardigradean protein that the creature produces, forming it into a glass bead. It's in this state that the water bear can pull off such extreme feats of survival—which might be very convenient for human medicine one day.
The problem with the [earlier] trehalose theory, as it turned out, was that while many other organisms like nematode worms and brine shrimp use it to survive desiccation, not all water bear species produce the sugar under stress. Some of those other organisms produce enough trehalose to make up 20 percent of their body weight. The water bear? Only about 2 percent.
This doesn't explain why tardigrade plushies thrive on my couch.