Two Pleistocene nematodes (roundworms) found frozen in the ice recently woke up from an over 30-40,000 year-long nap, thanks to scientists that coaxed the prehistoric worms backed to life.
The worms were found frozen in Yakutia, the coldest region in Russia according to the Daily Mail, which reported on the remarkable story.
The results of the roundworm experiment have potential implications for the future of cryonics and astrobiology. Cryonics aims to be able to freeze people for long periods of time keeping their bodies and cognitive faculties intact which could be useful for future space travel.
We have a long way to go before science makes cryonics a viable reality, and while today you can choose to have your dead body cryopreserved, successful reanimation may never be possible.
This study though does show that multicellular organisms can survive in extreme environments for thousands of years.
Researchers from the Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science in Moscow worked with geoscientists from Princeton University in New Jersey to analyze 300 frozen worms to see if any could feasibly be brought back to life.
Only two of the 300 worms examined were chosen for continued experimentations.
One of the nematodes, dated around 41,700 years old, was found in permafrost near the Alazeya river in Yakutia.
The worms were discovered near the site of Pleistocene Park, a jurassic park like project meant to guard against climate change.
The second worm was discovered in a prehistoric squirrel burrow in Duvanny Yar outcrop in the lower reaches of the Kolyma River in 2002 and dates back 32,000 years.
After the two worms were selected for defrosting, the researchers in Moscow reported signs of life including moving and eating, according to the Siberian Times.
“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 researchers wrote in a report of their research efforts, which was published in journal Doklady Biological Sciences.
Image Credit: The Siberian Times