It’s true that life’s full of challenges, but are some rather more challenged than others….?
When the mercury takes a deep dip downwards, the Arctic fox is a cold conquering champion. It’s able to endure the freezing temperatures of an artic winter – how? For starters, it has an incredibly dense fur coat to help keep it dry and warm in all that snow and it even has non-slip pads on its paws so it can get a grip in all that icy terrain – cool!
If that’s making you shiver, then the place where the desert ant dwells will be sure to warm you up! These critters are able to go hunting for their dinner in the blazing 50C (122F) heat of the day, munching up those poor unfortunates who failed to take note (just like those mad dogs and Englishmen!) to avoid the midday sun! – how? It has its very own portable sunshade in the form of tiny hairs that help deflect the sun’s rays from its body – hot stuff!
Let’s cool down a bit by heading up into the hills – but hang on, if we go too high, we’d struggle to breath, due to the low oxygen content up there. So, imagine explorers’ surprise when they found a little mouse happily living way high up in the Andes mountains! The descriptively named yellow-rumped leaf eared mouse appears to thrive at these dizzy heights and is now thought to be the highest dwelling mammal of all time. How? By having a low metabolic rate and specially adapted cardiovascular system – heavens!
We’ve all felt under pressure, but there’s one creature that can take a lot more than most – the Mariana snailfish. These strange looking specimens swim happily along at depths of up to 8,000 metres (over 26,000 ft) – or to put it another way, about 5 miles (8km) under the briny. How? With specially adapted bodies and no swim bladder (containing air) that would otherwise be crushed – heavy!
One thing snailfish don’t have to worry about is lack of water! But if the wet stuff is in very short supply, then that’s no problem to the kangaroo rat, which lives for months on end without taking a drop. How? Well, no water – no sweat! because these hardy rodents don’t perspire, to avoid loss of fluids. They also have specially adapted mouths and noses to retain moisture and gain most of their liquid intake from the seeds that they dine on – hard!
All these guys are specialised survivors in their own extreme environments, but there is one creature that can beat them all!
This tiny toughie is known as a tardigrade. These hardy critters are a teeny 1/2mm (0.020 inch) but their size is no barrier to their sheer ability to survive. They can take just about anything that gets thrown at them: heat – they can survive in boiling water! Cold – they can withstand freezing, sub-zero temperatures! Wet – they can happily survive even the deepest ocean. Drought – they come back to life after being totally dehydrated – and if that’s not enough, they can survive without food or water and are able withstand radiation!
They have even concurred the cosmos – surviving unprotected in space! How? Scientists believe they have a special protein that protects the DNA in their cells from damage. Awesome!