Russian scientists found worm-like creatures that had been trapped in Arctic ice for 24,000 years, and when they thawed them out they came back to life.
he creatures, known as bdelloid rotifers were trapped in frozen soil that was extracted from Siberian permafrost with a drilling rig.
Stas Malavin, a researcher at the Soil Cryology Laboratory at the Pushchino Scientific Center for Biological Research in Russia, said: “Our report is the hardest proof as of today that multicellular animals could withstand tens of thousands of years in cryptobiosis, the state of almost completely arrested metabolism.”
Earlier research had shown that these kinds of creatures could survive up to 10 years whilst frozen.
After using radiocarbon dating to figure out their age, these recently discovered creatures now confirm that they can survive 24,000 years being frozen solid.
Once fully melted, the tiny invertebrates got right back to reproducing and feeding.
“The takeaway is that a multicellular organism can be frozen and stored as such for thousands of years and then return back to life — a dream of many fiction writers,” said Malavin.
“Of course, the more complex the organism, the trickier it is to preserve it alive frozen and, for mammals, it’s not currently possible. Yet, moving from a single-celled organism to an organism with a gut and brain, though microscopic, is a big step forward.”
While not all the rotifers survived the freezing process, the study suggested that the creatures have some mechanism that can shield their cells and organs from harm at very low temperatures.
This is not the first time ancient creatures have time travelled to the present after being unfrozen.
Stems of Antarctic moss were successfully regrown from a 1,000-year-old sample that had been covered by ice for about 400 years, a living campion flower was restored from seed tissue dating back 32,000 years, and simple worms were revived after being frozen for 30,000 years.
All of these creatures are being discovered and woken from their frozen slumber as the climate crisis continues to melt away parts of the Siberian permafrost.