Scientists were shocked when they melted ancient Siberian ice looking for microbes and were greeted with worms that were still living after all these years. The ice was estimated to be more than 40,000 years old making the worms be the most complex organisms to ever survive being frozen in history.
The research was conducted by University of Tennessee microbiologist Tatiana Vishnivetskaya in collaboration with Russian scientists. Vishnivetskaya’s petri dish was suddenly filled with a pile of nematodes — half-millimeter long roundworms — that sprang back to life as the ice age-era permafrost melted away around them, The Washington Post reported.
The study found two nematodes, or roundworms, preserved in the Arctic permafrost for around 40,000 years, which once defrosted came back to life.
Vishnivetskaya stated she believes the worms are about 41,000 years old. She added that they could have survived indefinitely in the ice, as long as the permafrost was stable.
“If they survived 41,000 years, I have no idea what the upper limit is,” Gaetan Borgonie of Belgium’s Extreme Life Isyensya Institute told WaPo.
This isn’t the first time that scientists have unearthed a creature frozen under the ice.
Recent discoveries in the past few years suggest that we don’t know all there is to know about the icy Antarctica continent as we arrogantly assume. After all Antarctica is 5.405 million miles large with ice intact. Buried under all that ice so far we have discovered — unknown life forms, and even potentially the world’s largest canyon.
That’s not all, in Vostok — the largest subglacial lake in Antarctica — researchers even discovered unknown bacteria that lives off air alone. In 2017, researchers conducted another study, this time not digging under the ocean or lakes of Antarctica but rather taking samples of fossilized tree remains. The scientists found 13 fossil fragments from trees dating back more than 260 million years, around the time of the world’s greatest mass extinction event according to National Geographic. It’s not just trees and bacteria, in 2008 scientists collected nearly 30,000 different life forms many of which were unknown.
The longest nematodes on record beides the newly disocvered orgganisms laid dormant then they were revived after 39 years, according to Science Alert. If that’s not enough, tardigrades that had been frozen for 30 years were brought back to life by Japanese researchers in 2016, as Gizmodo pointed out.
This is a massive discovery for humankind, and it proves a finding against-all-odds may suggest that life could survive extreme conditions — including those on other planets. This revelation completely changes all of which scientists thought they knew not just about the process of cryogenically freezing an organism whether natural or unnatural, but the nature of worms themselves. This also makes you wonder what other organisms can survive for such a long period of time frozen besides worms and bacteria? And what else is buried under the ice just waiting for us to uncover and discover?
The scientists noted in their paper that their findings could have implications for astrobiology — the search for life outside our planet , cryomedicine, and cryobiology, which is the study of how extremely low temperatures affect life. That’s not all, it raises the possibility that long-dead or extinct species can be brought back to life.