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Scientists Bring 46,000 Year Old Worms Back To Life

Scientists have successfully reanimated a prehistoric worm that had been frozen in Siberia’s permafrost for 46,000 years.

The microscopic roundworm, which was discovered near the Kolyma River in the northeastern Arctic, is a previously unknown species of nematode and has been named Panagrolaimus kolymaensis by researchers.

The study found that these ancient worms were able to survive for such an extended period of time by entering into a state called cryptobiosis – one in which metabolism is reduced to extremely low levels to withstand extreme conditions. Researchers noted that this phenomenon allowed the nematodes to remain suspended in life for geological timeframes.

The roundworms were extracted from fossil burrows left by arctic gophers located about 130 feet deep underground. To protect cells from dehydration, trehalose – a type of sugar – was also found present within the specimen.

In order to learn more about these creatures, scientists spawned over 100 generations in laboratory settings and discovered they reproduced through parthenogenesis with three full sets of chromosomes instead of two as is typical with other species of Panagrolaimus.

The authors of the study wrote, “Our findings indicate that by adapting to survive [in a] cryptobiotic state for short time frames in environments like permafrost, some nematode species gained the potential for individual worms to remain in the state for geological timeframes.”

The study noted that the nematodes were located in a fossil burrow left by arctic gophers of the genus Citellus, about 130 feet deep.

Scientists believe the cells of the prehistoric roundworms were protected from dehydration by a sugar named trehalose.

Philipp Schiffer, a co-author of the study and evolutionary biologist at the University of Cologne in Germany, told the Washington Post, “We can say that they are alive, because they move, they eat bacteria on the culture plates, and they reproduce.”

Smithsonian Magazine reported, “The researchers learned more about the worms by spawning more than 100 generations of them in the lab. Like other species of Panagrolaimus, the newly discovered one reproduces asexually through parthenogenesis, and it has three full sets of chromosomes, instead of the usual two.”

Thomas Boothby, a molecular biologist at the University of Wyoming who was not part of the study, told the Wall Street Journal, “To have a complex and multicellular organism that can shut down and go into this state of suspended animation — for all extents and purposes appear dead… that’s mind-boggling.”

 

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2 Responses

  1. While some of your articles are interesting—this being one of them—I find it tedious to have to weed through the needless repetition of data/quotes in the guise of new material. It’s a shameful practice that serves no purpose other than to pad out the length to force the reader to scroll past still more ads.

    1. If you believe anything in this article, you need your head examined. Scientific Journals are loaded with these BS research claims to keep you gullible; no different than all of the garbage that NASA insists they have done but has been EASILY proven to be lies!

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