WORMS frozen in permafrost have come back to life after 42,000 years — in what experts say is a breakthrough in the science of cryogenics.
Two nematodes from Siberia are moving and eating again for the first time since the Pleistocene age, Russian scientists said.
The ancient roundworms — frozen since the era of woolly mammoths — started wriggling again in petri dishes at an institute near Moscow.
The team, who worked with geoscientists from Princeton University in the US, succeeded in coaxing the frozen worms back to life.
Their landmark report said: “We have obtained the first data demonstrating the capability of multicellular organisms for long-term cryobiosis in permafrost deposits of the Arctic”.
Some 300 prehistoric worms were analysed — and two “were shown to contain viable nematodes”.
“After being defrosted, the nematodes showed signs of life — they started moving and eating,” another report cited by The Siberian Times said.
One of the worms , found in permafrost in 2015, was from a site near the Alazeya River and believed to be around 41,700 years old.
The other was taken in 2002 from an prehistoric squirrel burrow in Duvanny Yar outcrop in the lower reaches of the Kolyma River — and is around 32,000 years old.
This is close to the site of Pleistocene Park, an experimental project seeking to recreate the Arctic habitat of the extinct woolly mammoth.
Both areas are in Yakutia — the coldest region in Russia.
The worms were coaxed back to life in a lab at the Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems
of Soil Science near Moscow.
Scientists there said the breakthrough demonstrates “the ability of multicellular organisms to survive long-term – tens of thousands of years” in a state of “natural cryoconservation”.
The report, which appeared in Doklady Biological Sciences, added: “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.”
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