Scientists have resurrected a handful of tiny, multicellular freshwater creatures known as bdelloid rotifers after spending 24,000 years frozen in Siberian permafrost.
The results, published Monday in the journal Current Biology, indicate that creatures can survive in a state of crytobiosis – where an animal responds to environmental stresses by drying out and entering a dormant state – much longer than previously known. before. Previous studies have shown that bdelloid rotifers can survive extreme cold in a cryptobiotic state for at least six to 10 years.
“Our report is the strongest evidence to date that multicellular animals could withstand tens of thousands of years in cryptobiosis, the almost completely arrested state of metabolism,” Stas Malavin, co-author of the study and researcher at the Russian Institute of Physico-Chemistry. and Biological Problems in Soil Science, said in a press release.
For this new study, scientists took cores 11.5 feet deep from the Alazeya River in northeast Siberia, where isolated microbes, including rotifers, were found frozen and dormant.
Carbon dating of the core indicates that the rotifers were around 24,000 years old and had been trapped in frozen soil since the Pleistocene era, which ended around 11,700 years ago.
Once thawed, the creatures came back to life and began to reproduce through parthenogenesis, an asexual process that creates clones of the original.
“We have resurrected animals that have seen woolly mammoths,” Malavin told The New York Times, “which is pretty impressive”.
While there is no doubt about the rotifer’s durability, the title of the longest nap goes to the nematode. In 2018, scientists revived some of the microscopic worms also plucked from Siberian permafrost that had been frozen for 42,000 years.
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