ANCIENT worms frozen under Arctic ice for more than 40,000 years have been reawakened by scientists.
It raises the possibility of long-dead or extinct species being brought back to life.
3 Scientists have reawakened nematode worms frozen under Arctic ice for over 40,000 yearsCredit: THIERRY BERROD, MONA LISA PRODUCTION/ SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
The nematode worms were found buried in the Siberian permafrost and are the most complex creatures to have been revived after a lengthy deep freeze.
Nematodes — half a millimetre long with a head, brain and nervous system — were resurrected by microbiologist Tatiana Vishnivetskaya at the University of Tennessee, US.
She said: “We were surprised and very excited.”She estimated one to be 41,000 years old — the oldest living organism yet.
3 Moss was brought back to life after 150 years in a glacierCredit: P. Boelen/BAS
Nematodes are known to be able to withstand extreme environments. They can go into suspended animation and grow a coating that protects against temperatures.
Nematode expert Gaetan Borgonie, from Extreme Life Isyensya in Gentbrugge, Belgium, said the nematodes are well equipped to survive millennia of being locked in permafrost.
She said: “These buggers survive just about everything.”
Meanwhile, moss has been brought back to life after 150 years buried in a glacier. Biologist Catherine La Farge said it was faded and distorted when she found it, but also green.
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She said: “You wouldn’t assume anything buried for hundreds of years would be viable.
“The material had always been considered dead. But by seeing green tissue, I thought ‘Well that’s pretty unusual’.”
She put samples in nutrient-rich soils at Canada’s University of Alberta. Nearly a third sprang into life.
3 Nematode worms can go into suspended animation and grow a coating that protects against extreme temperaturesCredit: John Donges /CC BY-SA 2.0
Berkeley Earth’s Global Warming map shows the history of temperature changes around the world from 1850 to 2018