- Scientists have revived 24,000-year-old bdelloid rotifer microworms.
- The rotifers were frozen in permafrost in a long-term cryptobiotic state.
- Lessons from these and other revived organisms could help farms on Mars.
Scientists in Russia have revived a microscopic organism that reproduced asexually after being frozen in the vast permafrost areas of northeastern Siberia for 24,000 years.
The tiny ancient organism, known as the bdelloid rotifer, was discovered in dirt obtained from the Alazeya River in Russia’s far northwestern province of Yakutia.
The bdelloid rotifer, a multicellular creature found in freshwater settings all over the world, is known to be cold tolerant.
Previous studies revealed that when frozen at -20 degrees Celsius, it may live for a decade (-4 Fahrenheit).
This unique occurrence, described in a paper published in the journal Current Biology, is by far the longest reported living span in a frozen state.
Stas Malavin of Pushchino’s Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science’s Soil Cryology Laboratory stated:
“Our report is the hardest proof as of today that multicellular animals could withstand tens of thousands of years in cryptobiosis, the state of almost completely arrested metabolism.”
The lab specializes in isolating microscopic organisms from Siberia’s old permafrost.
In the most distant Arctic areas, a drilling rig is employed to collect samples.
The organism was found in samples taken 3.5 metres (11.5 feet) underground. According to the analysis, the material was dated between 23,960 and 24,485 years old.
For years, land trapped in permafrost – where the ground is frozen all year – has yielded stunning scientific discoveries.
Scientists previously revived microscopic worms known as nematodes from silt in two locations in northern Siberia that were over 30,000 years old.
“The takeaway is that a multicellular organism can be frozen and stored as such for thousands of years and then return back to life – a dream of many fiction writers,” Malavin said.
“Of course, the more complex the organism, the trickier it is to preserve it alive frozen and, for mammals, it’s not currently possible. Yet, moving from a single-celled organism to an organism with a gut and brain, though microscopic, is a big step forward.”