The tiny organisms survive by entering into a state of low metabolism known as “suspended animation” when normal bodily functions cease. This process prevents ice from freezing their cells, which would normally lead to death.
Alex Keene, Florida Atlantic University
Scientists suspect the Pompeii worm — the most heat-tolerant animal on Earth — survives due to the prominent bacteria coating its back, which provide some insulation for the worm. In return, the worm secretes mucus to feed the bacteria.
Woods frogs cope with the cold by freezing themselves — literally. The frogs produce antifreeze that prevents ice from freezing their cells. Their hearts stop beating and their lungs cease to function. When winter ends, the frogs thaw and resume daily life.
The birds fly at night and use wind deflections off the mountains to fly higher and conserve energy, but recent research also shows their bodies' metabolic rates can uniquely adapt to these oxygen-deprived environments in ways other birds cannot. They’ve even been spotting flying over Mount Everest.
Tardigrades can survive freezing temperatures down hundreds of degrees below zero degrees Fahrenheit or hot temperatures exceeding 300 degrees. They can also withstand thousands of times more radiation than humans. Researchers think certain aspects of their bodies, such as their limb movements and ability to enter into a low-metabolism state, may help them survive.