The permafrost of the Russian Siberian heartland has produced a number of impressive finds in recent years. Last September, a resident of a river in the Republic of Yakutia discovered the approximately 50,000-year-old remains of an extinct lion cubs that were almost perfectly preserved from the permanently frozen ground. In 2015, Russian scientists came across the similarly well-preserved remains of two ancient lion cubs called Uyan and Dina.
New Atlas & # 39; Michael Irving, a team of Russian scientists working in collaboration with Princeton University, found the viable specimens in the analysis of more than 300 soil samples from the Arctic permafrost. One of the samples was found by a squirrel in the Duvanny Yar bulge and dates back to about 32,000 years ago. The older specimen, which originated approximately 41,700 years ago, was found in a glacial deposit near the Alazeya River. It is believed that both nematodes are female.
Irving writes that the worms were originally stored in a laboratory at -4 degrees Fahrenheit. Later, the samples were thawed in a Petri dish next to an enrichment culture to encourage their growth. After basking in their new 68-degree Fahrenheit environment for several weeks, the nematodes began to move and eat despite adversity.
"Our data show the ability of multicellular organisms to survive long-term (tens of thousands of years) cryobiosis under conditions of natural cryopreservation," the researchers said in a statement. "It is obvious that this ability suggests that the Pleistocene nematodes have some adaptive mechanisms that may be of scientific and practical importance to related fields of science, such as cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology."
Robin M. Giblin-Davis, a nematologist and deputy director of the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center of the University of Florida, says Gizmodo 's Ed Cara that the feat theoretically is possible. She said that if the worms are "protected from physical damage that would compromise their structural integrity during their frozen internment … they can resuscitate during thawing / rehydration", but warn that the team's "old rehearsals" will be over Although contemporary organisms may be contaminated
Although Russian scientists acknowledge the possibility of such contamination, they consider this unlikely. According to the study, the team followed procedures aimed at ensuring complete sterility and claimed that the depth at which the nematodes were buried – 100 feet and 15 feet below the surface – eliminated the possibility of including modern organisms. As explained by Mike McRae of Science Alert nematodes generally do not dig deep into Siberian permafrost since seasonal thawing only reaches a depth of about three feet.
This is not the first time researchers have allegedly revived long-dead organisms; In 2000, a team claimed to be 250 million years old bacteria, although this extraordinary claim requires more evidence before the scientific community fully accepts it. However, the new announcement, which focuses on multicellular organisms rather than single-celled bacteria, is an important milestone for scientists. McRae reports that nematodes have been revived after 39 years of rest, while their close relatives, the bearded bear, have been successfully revived on ice after about 30 years.
Byron J. Adams, a nematologist at Brigham Young University, tells Gizmodo 's Cara that the researchers' claims are feasible, but he believes that more Tests should be done to definitely assess the age of the worms. He is particularly interested in what the ancient worms could say about the evolution of their species and notes that "after 40,000 years, we should expect to discover significant differences in the evolutionary divergence between ancient and contemporary populations."
If Proven, True New knowledge offers tangible hope for the resurrection of ancient organisms. The return of the mammoth may remain far in the future, but in the meantime we have two 40,000 year old roundworms that arouse our dreams of a Pleistocene revival.
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