Researchers found the new creature while on a trip to Victoria Land, some 5,600 km south of Australia. The creature is a member of the tardigrade family.

"Under the microscope, they are slow walkers but they look like bears walking. They have four pairs of legs but they can hold their back legs down and arch themselves up to reach things," Sandra McInnes of British Antarctic Survey was quoted as saying.

"They have been tested in space, under liquid nitrogen, put under pressure and had chemicals thrown over them but they are fine after being washed in water," McInnes added.

This is the only kind of creature known that can survive in the vacuum of space.

Tardigrades or water bears are water-dwelling micro-animals with eight legs. The tiny creatures are certainly strange-looking with their eight chubby legs, little claws and probing heads.

A number of them, no bigger than half a millimetre, were lurking on mosses within a crater hollowed out by ancient glaciers. They can survive the rigours of Antarctica and they have also been tested with extremes of cold, heat, pressure, dehydration, poison and radioactivity.

Some experts have compared their shape with jelly babies or moles but tardigrades should not be judged by their 'cute' appearance. They are virtually indestructible. They will not die even if they are boiled, frozen, squeezed under pressure or desiccated, Daily Mail reported.

The discovery was published in the journal Polar Biology.

(Agencies)

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