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

By 0 and 0 and 0
26 July 2018


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 (91)

To all of the people here not from America I apologize for the idiocy of my fellow americans, there are a bunch of well educated and reasonable people here in the US, don't judge all of us based on a select group of crackpots.
Anonymous, USA
15/01/2021 21:26
.... did those scientists just assume those nematodes’ gender...? That’s triggering.
Graham, USA
27/10/2020 19:57
This is fascinating! It may have the potential to bring about a step progress in Cryonics as well as further our understanding of life in more complex organisms.
Hope to hear more about this in the future, especially about what sort of "food" they are being fed!
To those questioning whether these organisms are alive or not, yes, moving and eating qualify as being alive. These are microbial organisms; this is kind of what they do.
Vinny A., California, US
11/03/2020 02:36
So, exactly what test was performed to determine the age of these nematodes? Until I see the data from the tests I will have my doubts as to the accuracy of their age.
Marc, United States
11/03/2020 02:21
These creatures create fascinating thought for future research. My question is if they are still living?
Vicki Rose, United States
16/05/2019 22:17
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
EMIP, Washington, DC, USA
31/07/2018 08:39
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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