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Prehistoric Worms Come Back To Life After 42,000 Years Of Being Frozen

Jul 27, 2018 02:22 AM EDT
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Scientists have brought the "dead" back to life in a groundbreaking study that saw Siberian roundworms survive 42,000 years of being frozen.

Cryogenics have long been the subject of science fiction, but new research proves that it could be part of the future. A pair of nematodes withstood thousands and thousands of years in the permafrost, waking up to an entirely new world in 2018.

Worms Revived After Natural Cryopreservation

In the study published in the journal Doklady Biological Sciences, Russian scientists, in collaboration with Princeton University, reveal that their research is the first to demonstrate the capability of multi-cellular organisms to withstand long-term cryobiosis.

According to Siberian Times, around 300 samples of permafrost were collected from two sites in Siberia. Amazingly, two of the samples contain nematodes that sprung back to life after being defrosted.

The surviving nematodes — all female — are now the oldest living creatures on Earth, having lived way back in the Pleistocene epoch. Even more impressively, the pair are actually moving around on the Petri dishes and even eating.

The first sample was from an ancient squirrel burrow by the Kolyma River and estimated to be 32,000 years old, while the other was collected near the Alazeya River and determined to be around 41,700 years old, give or take 1,400 years.

Scientists point out that the ground in these regions only thaw up to 2.6 feet every year, and the last time it thawed over 4.9 feet was about 100,000 years ago, IFLScience reports. Thus, the newly discovered nematodes do not represent modern nematodes that may have seeped into the permafrost.

"Our data demonstrate the ability of multicellular organisms to survive long-term (tens of thousands of years) cryobiosis under the conditions of natural cryoconservation," scientists wrote in the paper, according to Siberian Times. "It is obvious that this ability suggests that the Pleistocene nematodes have some adaptive mechanisms that may be of scientific and practical importance for the related fields of science, such as cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology."

The Powers Of Nematodes

To be fair, nematodes or roundworms have long been hailed as a beast in survival. According to IFLScience, the phylum is known for its capabilities to withstand extreme conditions.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences back in February 2002 reveal that these creatures have developed the ability of cryoprotective dehydration, which is the process of expelling water from their cells when temperatures drop to freezing. With this adaptation, there's no water left to freeze, expand, and destroy the cells.

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