Siberian worm thawed and reproduced after about 46,000 years
Russian researchers were able to revive a female roundworm after being frozen for thousands of years.
Russian researchers were able to revive a female roundworm, found in a soil sample from near the remote settlement of Chersky in northeastern Siberia, that had been dormant in Siberia for 46,000 years.
More than any animal previously investigated, the worm, taken from 40 meters below the surface, remained in suspended animation for tens of thousands of years before thawing out and starting to reproduce, an RT report revealed.
The soil from where the worm was extracted had remained frozen since the Pleistocene period, approximately 46,000 years ago. The revived worm, once unfrozen, was able to reproduce through the process of parthenogenesis, wherein the female does not need to mate to reproduce.
“By adapting to cope with extreme conditions, such as permafrost, for short periods of time, the nematodes might have gained the potential to remain dormant over geological timescales,” read an announcement from PLOS Genetics.
Scientists have recognized for many years that certain species can almost live indefinitely by turning off their metabolisms, but up until now, they were only able to thaw soil nematodes that have been frozen for several dozen years, according to the report.
Although the nematode no longer lives, Shatilovich and her colleagues have developed 100 generations of offspring from it.
The frigid terrain of Siberia has also been home to an untold number of antiquated viruses, including one that researchers last year were able to resurrect after 48,500 years. Russia has issued a cautionary note stating that the continuing thawing of the permafrost brought on by climate change may enable these latent viruses to become active once again.