A group of scientists have successfully revived two species of worms they discovered suspended in an icy chunk of Siberian permafrost.
The worms, known as nematodes – more commonly referred to as roundworms – had been frozen for up to 42,000 years, since a time when much of the planet was covered in ice – the Pleistocene age.
The Russian scientists, who made the discovery, have confirmed the creatures are moving and eating again after being ‘dead’ for thousands and thousands of years.
The researchers brought the worms back to a lab and put them in petri dishes with food, where they slowly raised their temperature over a period of several weeks, reports The Siberian Times.
A report from Russian scientists, from four institutions in collaboration with Princetown University states:
We have obtained the first data demonstrating the capability of multicellular organisms for longterm cryptobiosis in permafrost deposits of the Arctic
It’s the first documented time multi-cellular organisms have returned to function normally after being frozen in permafrost.
The researchers published their findings in the journal, Doklady Biological Sciences back in May, but the study became available online this month as of July, 2018.
In the report, the authors state certain types of bacteria, algae, yeast, seeds, and spores have been found to remain viable, even after being frozen for thousands, or even millions of years.
However, the nematode – an organism considered to be quite complex – has never shown to be capable of this.
Until now, the longest nematodes to have been dormant then revived, was 39 years, according to Science Alert.
Similarly, tardigrades – water-dwelling micro-animals – which had been frozen for 30 years, were brought back to life by Japanese researchers in 2016, reports Gizmodo.
The permafrost samples came from the remote Yakutia (Sakha) region in Siberia. The researchers analysed over 300 samples, and selected two which had well-preserved nematodes in them.
One of the samples, which was said to be 100 feet deep, was estimated to have frozen 32,000 years ago. Yet the other was just over 11 feet deep, but was thought to have been frozen 42,000 years ago.
However, scientists have stated they’re unable to rule out the possibility the samples may have been contaminated at some, more recent point. Although they added how they kept the experiment as sterile as possible.
Therefore it appears the most likely explanation is the worms were indeed revived after being frozen for millennia.
Nematodes are thought to be impressive little worms, despite their tiny size – on average, they measure less than 1 millimetre.
According to Live Science, nematodes been found living almost a mile below the Earth’s surface. Some have even adapted to living inside slug intestines. Gross!
In the paper, the Russian team note how their findings could have implications for astrobiology — a branch of biology concerned with the origins of life, early evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.
Even if you’re not into your science – this is truly remarkable stuff! I wonder what other discoveries lie ahead…
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