You’re looking at Ozobranchus jantseanus, a little leech found in East Asia. It doesn’t look much, but it has a very special skill indeed: it can survive for up to 24 hours immersed in liquid nitrogen.
In case you were wondering, that’s 196C, which is way, way below the temperature most creatures can stand. Usually, as the temperature drops, water inside cells freezes, expands and ruptures the membrane, causing death.
While other creatures have survived immersion in liquid nitrogen — water bears and the larvae of one type of drosophilid fly — the previous record was just one hour. Ozobranchus jantseanus smashes that with its 24-hour survival period. Amazingly, taken down to -90C — colder than the lowest ever naturally occurring weather temperature on Earth — the leech can also survive for a staggering nine months. Some even survived 32 months.
What’s more, they can undergo the freeze-thaw cycle in liquid nitrogen up to 12 times, and seem to need no acclimatisation. In other words, these little suckers are hard as nails. It’s not clear exactly how they do it yet, but if scientists do work that out, it could be a real help for cryopreservation techniques in the future. [PLOS One via Popsci]