Tiny nematodes like this one were found to be unexpectedly hardy after being frozen in arctic ice thousands of years later
? ever wake up from a long nap feeling a little disoriented, not quite knowing where you were? Imagine being "awake to sleep" after 42,000 years
In Siberia, melting permafrost triggers nematodes ̵
Their findings, published in the May 2018 issue of the journal Doklady Biological Sciences, are the first evidence of multicellular organisms that return to life after a long sleep in arctic permafrost, the researchers wrote. [Weird Wildlife: The Real Animals of Antarctica]
Although nematodes are tiny – typically about 1 millimeter long – they have impressive abilities. Some live 1.3 kilometers below the surface of the earth, deeper than any other multicellular animal. Certain worms living on an island in the Indian Ocean can develop one of five different mouths, depending on what kind of food is available. Others are adapted to thrive within slug-gut and travel on slugy-highways from slug poop.
For the new study, researchers analyzed 300 samples of Arctic permafrost deposits and found two that contained several well-preserved nematodes. A sample was collected from a fossil squirrel building near the Alazeya River in the northeastern part of Yakutia, Russia, from deposits estimated to be about 32,000 years old. The other permafrost sample came from the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia, and the age of nearby deposits was around 42,000 years, the scientists reported.
They isolated the worms – all females – from the permafrost specimens and determined that they were two known nematode species: Panagrolaimus detritophagus and Plectus parvus . After thawing the worms, researchers observed that they were moving and feeding, which was the first evidence of "natural cryopreservation" of multicellular animals, according to the study.
However, the nematodes were not the first organism that had been awakening for millennia. Previously, another group of scientists had identified a huge virus that was revived frozen in Siberian permafrost after 30,000 years. (Do not panic, amoebae are the only animal affected by this ancient attacker.)
Further investigation will be needed to decipher the mechanisms of the old nematodes that allowed them to freeze for so long; Demonstrating how these adjustments work could have implications for many scientific areas, such as cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology, "the researchers concluded.
Original article about Live Science.