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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)

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
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
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
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
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
I've worked with nematodes. We would freeze them in -80°C and bring them back later. They are very simple organisms with ~1000 cells. I'm skeptical bur the claims that 2/300 were alive is believable given what's known about nematodes. The implications for "cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology" are likely sensationalized and overstated to get people's attention. The first picture is not what nematodes look like, for one they are ~1 mm long and transparent as per the microscope images.
Andrew Johnson, Brisbane, Australia
29/07/2018 06:39
Americans are NEVER wrong.! Trust in Trump, and you will be O K !
Pete Ballan, United Kingdom
29/07/2018 04:44
The inevitable research this may lead to is mind-boggling
Thora, California
29/07/2018 04:30
This entire thread of comments is so very frightening.
Are people, especially Americans, really so incredibly dumb and stupidly sure of themselves?

You're talking seriously about souls and the great flood and fucking zombie worms as if any of it is unquestionable and real science.

What happened to you? Why are you like this?
Please stop and look at what you're doing.
You might just be wrong, and that is okay.
Gustav, Sweden
29/07/2018 02:34
But they’re both Females
Does that mean that bringinging them back is just an epilogue?
Michael, Minneapolis
29/07/2018 00:53
Fox News had it too so now you can believe it. Lol!
R M, Leominster, Massachusetts
28/07/2018 23:56
Sorry, Martin from Minnesota, but the earth is not 6000 years old, humans and dinosaurs did not live together. Anyone with even a basic background in logic, history, and science will tell you that James Ussher's idea of adding together the ages of the "Holy People" of the Bible to figure out the age of the universe is irrational at best. To quote from a very good play on this subject: "The Bible is just a book. It's a good book, but it's not the only book." Or, to put it another way, if the Sun wasn't created until the 4th day, how long were those first 3 "days"? 24 hours? 25? Or were those "days" millions of years in length? The fact remains that the youngest of these nematodes is a good 28,000 years older than the Bible itself. Quite a miracle.
Sean Thornton, USA
28/07/2018 23:39
How are they alive? Are they brainless? Or They Are like Viruses?
Saif, Pakistan
28/07/2018 23:17
Certainly an event any climate denier would disbelieve
R M, Leominster, Massachusetts
28/07/2018 23:15
Wonderful news - although it is more likely to be what they didn't have - complex brain and nervous system and other major organs - that enabled them to survive rather then some magic cryo gene.

(People who believe in gods calling others "gullible" lol...)

(People who say they didn't see it in mainstream media when it is in all online papers and tv stations - lol)

(People coming out with fictional nonsense about bibles and floods and other such nonsense... lol)
Jack Snakes, Dorset, UK
28/07/2018 23:11

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