Tardigrades, known colloquially as water bears or moss piglets,are a phylum of water-dwelling eight-legged segmented micro-animals. They were first described by the German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze in 1773, who called them little water bears. In 1777, the Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani named them Tardigrada, which means “slow steppers”.
They have been found everywhere, from mountaintops to the deep sea and mud volcanoes, and from tropical rainforests to the Antarctic.Tardigrades are among the most resilient animals known,with individual species able to survive extreme conditions—such as exposure to extreme temperatures, extreme pressures (both high and low), air deprivation, radiation, dehydration, and starvation—that would quickly kill most other known forms of life. Tardigrades have survived exposure to outer space. About 1,300 known species form the phylum Tardigrada, a part of the superphylum Ecdysozoa. The earliest known true members of the group are known from Cretaceous amber in North America, but are essentially modern forms, and therefore likely have a significantly earlier origin, as they diverged from their closest relatives in the Cambrian, over 500 million years ago.