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A. J. Haywood

Worms frozen in permafrost for up to 42,000 years come back to life

By The Siberian Times reporter
26 July 2018

Nematodes moving and eating again for the first time since the Pleistocene age in major scientific breakthrough, say experts.

Awake after 42,000 years... Picture: The Siberian Times

The roundworms from two areas of Siberia came back to life in Petri dishes, says a new scientific study. 

‘We have obtained the first data demonstrating the capability of multicellular organisms for longterm cryobiosis in permafrost deposits of the Arctic,’ states a report from Russian scientists from four institutions in collaboration with Princetown University.

Some 300 prehistoric worms were analysed - and two ‘were shown to contain viable nematodes’.

‘After being defrosted, the nematodes showed signs of life,’ said a report today from Yakutia, the area where the worms were found.

‘They started moving and eating.’ 

Worms frozen in permafrost for 42,000 years come back to life


Worms frozen in permafrost for 42,000 years come back to life


Worms frozen in permafrost for 42,000 years come back to life
Duvanny Yar and (in the middle) the nematodes. Pictures: Nikita Zimov, Doklady Biological Sciences/Pleiades Publishing


One worm came from an ancient squirrel burrow in a permafrost wall of the Duvanny Yar outcrop in the lower reaches of the Kolyma River - close to the site of Pleistocene Park which is seeking to recreate the Arctic habitat of the extinct woolly mammoth, according to the scientific article published in Doklady Biological Sciences this week. 

This is around 32,000 years old. 

Another was found in permafrost near Alazeya River in 2015, and is around 41,700 years old. 

Currently the nematodes are the oldest living animals on the planet.  

They are both believed to be female. 

Worms frozen in permafrost for 42,000 years come back to life


Worms frozen in permafrost for 42,000 years come back to life


Worms frozen in permafrost for 42,000 years come back to life


Worms frozen in permafrost for 42,000 years come back to life


Worms frozen in permafrost for 42,000 years come back to life

Duvanny Yar and Alazeya river marked on the map, Alazeya River, specialists of the Institite of Psycico-Chemical and Biological Problems and Soil Science in Moscow region


The worms came back to life in a laboratory at The Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science in Moscow region. 

The scientists say: “Our data demonstrate the ability of multicellular organisms to survive long-term (tens of thousands of years) cryobiosis under the conditions of natural cryoconservation. 

'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 Russian institutions involved in the pioneering research were: The Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science; Moscow State University; Pertsov White Sea Biological Station, part of Moscow State University; and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

The Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, was also involved. 

Comments (86)

A chance to see with our eyes the past, in my opinion is our way to an exciting and improved future!
Eileen Petrovna, Colorado United States
15/11/2018 07:09
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I find the anti-scientific prejudice and tone against Christianity very disturbing. I doubt you have examined the evidence: you just dismiss Christians as weirdos. I find this intellectually lazy. Is it only the Christians who are so sure of themselves? It seems the non-Christians are very sure of themselves. If you condemn assurance in the Christians, do you think it is okay in yourselves? That would be a double standard.
Tom, USA
09/10/2018 21:29
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This is a wonderful discovery. The serious ramifications it has on our current understanding of life are enormous. Would like to see the followup.
Ashfaq , kashmir
09/10/2018 11:47
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Vraaak, I would'nt be talking to much about how stupid Americans are, you Brits aren't any better. All that inbreeding didn't do a whole lot for your intelligence either.
Chei, Port Richey, USA
13/09/2018 06:35
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Amazing stuff! My congratulations to the scientists, who "unearthed" this discovery. Nobel prize time for you!!
Charles E. Martin, Washington DC
07/08/2018 20:22
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Incredible stuff. I wonder if the worms are still alive.
And please stop referring to Amaricans when talking about the crazy bible-thumpers who live in the Country. Not all Amaricans are as closed-minded. Thank you.
D.B., Endicott, New York
04/08/2018 03:57
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Apologize for all the religious wackadoodles from the US replying here with biblical screeds. We're not all like that ::eye roll::
CG, Tacoma, WA
02/08/2018 22:53
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Crikey! Just when we thought that America couldn't produce more stupid people,you prove the rest of us wrong.

Otherwise this is an astonishing discovery. Well done to the scientists.
Vraaak, London, UK
31/07/2018 14:29
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This news, when taken in tandem with the announcement on 25 July 2018 by Italian scientists working on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission that a 12-mile (20 km) wide and 1 mile (1.6 km) deep underground liquid lake of perchlorate salt infused water has been detected by radar measurements under a layer of frozen ice near the Martian south pole, leads me to think that it may be very possible we may well find life on Mars: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/25/science/mars-liquid-alien-life.html
EMIP, Washington, DC, USA
31/07/2018 08:39
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If this article is true, doesn't it show that natural climate change takes place, perhaps cyclically, as opposed to shear anthropogenic causes?
Mike Simone, Fort Pierce, FL
31/07/2018 02:43
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Interesting stuff. Reading the original study now (thanks to Laura, USA in the comments). Im worried about the ignorant fools that read this and go "Muh Zombi-worms" or "Muh Earth is 6000 years old, because bible stuff". I mean, really, how could you turn out that way?
Christopher Pedersen, Sweden
30/07/2018 04:03
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Small things are just worst. Cant possibly say when you meet this (these) creature what it is, what bacteria or viruses it contains. This is begun of monstrous era where melting Siberia and southern pole brings dangers what you cant even see back to life. some scientist helping it taking it kind of opportunity, all those talks about living dead, what has been dead thousands of years big and small living beings.
Sarianna, Tervamäki
29/07/2018 20:41
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1-Very interesting article. Glad to see science news flowing more freely.
2-The problem with being nearsighted, having an astigmatism and being kept up later than I should be by pain is that I sometimes misread headlines. My sleepy eyes changed “worm” to “Woman” which was a bit more provocative but less likely a story.
3-Perhaps a mistake only possible in English?
Peter, Chiberia, USA (aka Chicago)
29/07/2018 12:10
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There was a documentary on PBS a few years ago about the stemming issues that melting permafrost holds. The environment has adjusted to be without certain bacteria, fungi, microbes, insects et al. Emerging insects pose a problem because in some areas there aren't enough birds or mammals to incorporate and control the sudden population growth. Also problematic is that a sudden influx of resurrected life forms might be the end of others. All this over a degree or two.
Christina H., United States
29/07/2018 09:37
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Now it is stay alive, may you research the metabolism that makes it to be able to resist for long period of time ?
Mohamed Kissiba , Liberia
29/07/2018 07:34
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1

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