• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Astonishing Discovery: 46,000-Year-Old Worm Brought Back to Life in Siberian Permafrost, Begins Reproducing

Jul 30, 2023

In a groundbreaking scientific breakthrough, researchers have successfully revived an ancient female microscopic roundworm that remained trapped in Siberian permafrost for a staggering 46,000 years. The extraordinary finding was reported by The Washington Post and has sent shockwaves through the scientific community.

The worm’s revival took place through a process called parthenogenesis, a remarkable form of reproduction that doesn’t require a mate. After being brought back to life, the worm astonishingly started having babies. The discovery sheds light on the resilience and adaptability of certain microorganisms in extreme conditions.

The worm’s long period of dormancy is known as cryptobiosis, during which all metabolic processes, including reproduction and development, come to a halt. This cryptobiotic state can last for an extended period, even approaching eternity, as reported by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in a press release.

A research paper published in the journal PLOS Genetics on Thursday revealed that scientists identified the worm as belonging to an entirely “undescribed species,” which they named Panagrolaimus kolymaensis.

The astonishing feat of reviving this worm surpasses previous instances involving nematodes like Plectus murrayi and Tylenchus polyhypnus, which were brought back to life from moss and herbarium specimens after only a few dozen years. In contrast, Panagrolaimus kolymaensis remained dormant for tens of thousands of years, representing a significant scientific milestone.

Nematodes, also known as roundworms, are an immensely diverse group of microscopic organisms, estimated to comprise millions of species living in various environments such as ocean trenches, tundras, deserts, and volcanic soils. Remarkably, scientists have only managed to describe around 5,000 marine nematode species so far.

William Crow, a nematologist at the University of Florida who wasn’t involved in the study, suggested that this worm might belong to a species thought to have gone extinct in the past 50,000 years. However, Crow also pointed out that it could potentially be a common nematode species that remained undescribed until now.

The ability of the worm to survive for such an unimaginable length of time does not surprise researchers, as they have been aware for years that microscopic organisms possess the remarkable ability to suspend their biological functions and endure the harshest conditions.

In conclusion, the findings of this study not only emphasize the extraordinary resilience of nematodes but also provide valuable insights into their mechanisms for surviving over geological time scales. This discovery opens up new avenues for scientific inquiry and pushes the boundaries of our understanding of life’s tenacity in the face of extreme environmental challenges.

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