Worm Brought Back To Life, Has Babies, After 46,000 Years In Deep Freeze.

Photo courtesy Miriam Jones, U.S. Geological Survey. Permafrost areas such as ALaska and Siberia are melting at an alarming rate. Could this mean that we will be welcoming large numbers of frozen prehistoric worms and other creatures?
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By Editor-July 23rd, 2023.

Scientists have reported reviving a worm that was frozen in Siberia 46,000 years ago — at a time when extinct animals like woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers and giant elks still roamed the planet Earth.

Scientists discovered and reanimated two kinds of frozen microscopic nematodes or roundworms in Siberia five years ago. A new study on them published Thursday reveals their secrets, including the fact that they are 46,000 years old and one of them is an entirely new species that has never before been discovered.

Many animals like nematodes, and more famously, tardigrades, can survive extreme conditions by entering a dormant state called “cryptobiosis.”

The worms found by the scientist were taken from a fossilised burrow in silt deposits in the northeastern Arctic. Based on analysis of the plant material from this burrow, the study published in the journal PLOS Genetics says that these worms were frozen since the late Pleistocene era between 45,839 and 47,769 years ago.

The roundworm, of a previously unknown species, survived 40 meters (131.2 feet) below the surface in the Siberian permafrost in a dormant state known as cryptobiosis, according to Teymuras Kurzchalia, professor emeritus at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden and one of the scientists involved in the research.

“One can halt life and then start it from the beginning. This a major finding,” he said, adding that other organisms previously revived from this state had survived for decades rather than millennia.

Five years ago, scientists from the Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science in Russia found two roundworm species in the Siberian permafrost.

One of the researchers, Anastasia Shatilovich, revived two of the worms at the institute by simply rehydrating them with water, before taking around 100 worms to labs in Germany for further analysis, transporting them in her pocket.

After thawing the worms, the scientists used radiocarbon analysis of the plant material in the sample to establish that the deposits had not been thawed since between 45,839 and 47,769 years ago.

But still, they didn’t know whether the worm was a known species. Eventually, genetic analysis conducted by scientists in Dresden and Cologne showed that these worms belonged to a novel species, which researchers named Panagrolaimus kolymaenis.

Researchers also found that the P. kolymaenis shared with C. elegans — another organism often used in scientific studies — “a molecular toolkit” that could allow it to survive cryptobiosis. Both organisms produce a sugar called trehalose, possibly enabling them to endure freezing and dehydration.

Sources: CNN, BBC.
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