It is thought that this horizontal transfer occurs mostly during periods when the tardigrades are dehydrated to 3% water, which they can survive. During this dormancy, a tardigrade's DNA breaks down into tiny fragments. When rehydrated, the tardigrades may randomly stitch in other species' genes — primarily genes from bacteria, but also from plants, fungi, and archaea.
This may help explain how these animals have evolved to survive the vacuum and cold of outer space, temperatures well above the boiling point of water, absurdly high pressure, massive radiation exposure, and how they can live for over a decade without food or water.
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