When we think of animals, we often imagine creatures of size visible to the naked eye. But what if the world's smallest animal were a microscopic species, barely perceptible without specialized equipment? A surprising truth to discover!
The infinitely small: an unsuspected world at our side
We share our world with a myriad of animals that we don't always perceive. Some are so small that they live inside us, invisible to the naked eye. So, when we ask ourselves what is the smallest animal in the world, we have to get away from the usual conceptions. Fish, reptiles and even the tiniest human beings seem gigantic in the face of the real answer.
Around 8.7 million animal species inhabit our world. Experts estimate that it could take more than 1,000 years to classify the world's fauna. Indeed, with such diversity, the current holder of the title of “world's smallest animal” could one day be dethroned by an even tinier creature.
The tardigrade: the microscopic “bear” that holds the record
Today, the world's smallest animal is said to be the tardigrade, also known as the “water bear”. Despite its microscopic size, it is not unlike a bear. The average tardigrade measures between 0.1 and 1.5 millimeters, with some specimens even smaller, at just 0.05 millimeters.
But don't underestimate these creatures because of their small size. The tardigrade is not only the world's smallest animal, but also one of its most interesting.
A tiny creature with incredible strength
The tardigrade certainly doesn't suffer from an inferiority complex. These tiny creatures are renowned for their exceptional resistance and ability to survive in extreme conditions and temperatures, such as high pressure, radiation and even space. On Earth, they are complex, hardy animals found in many environments, both aquatic and terrestrial.
In addition, the tardigrade has the ability to enter cryptobiosis, a state during which it reduces its metabolism to almost zero for over 20 years, before rehydrating and resuming its activity. As for the world's smallest mammal, it is the batodontoides, a species of fossil insectivorous animal from North America.
A microscopic universe to discover
While our perception of animals is often skewed by their size visible to the naked eye, the existence of tardigrades reminds us that there is a world of microscopic animals sharing our space, often without us even being aware of it.