Roundworms thaw out after 42,000 years in ice

Avatar By Joseph Scalise | 2 years ago

Nematodes frozen in permafrost for the past 40,000 years have just thawed out alive and well, according to a new study published in the journal Doklady Biological Sciences.

In the study, a group of Russian scientists traveled to the Arctic and dug up over 300 samples of frozen soil from different ages of Earth’s history.

After analyzing the ice, they found that two samples had nematodes from two different genera. To get a better look at the strange creatures, the team spent weeks thawing out the worms in a 68 Fahrenheit environment.

Not long after, the animals quickly returned to form. In fact, soon after thawing they began to move around and eat.

Some of the worms date back 32,000 years, while others date back 42,000 years.

Though it is easy to be skeptical of those dates, the team states they followed strict guidelines to rule out contamination.

Not only are the worms not known to bury deep into permafrost, but seasonal thawing only affects areas under three feet and there has been no thawing beyond five feet for the past 9000 years.

This finding is important, not just from a biological standpoint, but because it could one day shed light on how to better preserve human DNA for extended periods of time. Though bacteria have been known to come back to life after millions of years, an animal is more exciting because of its complex structure.

For those reasons, this finding affects many different fields and could greatly alter future research.

“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,” wrote the researchers in the study, according to Science Alert.