(About a 1 minute read)
The Kolyma river in Northeastern Siberia flows into the Arctic ocean and is so cold that it’s iced over about 250 days of the year. Recently, a group of scientists discovered along its banks in permafrosted soil roundworms — nematodes — that were 32,000 to 42,000 years old.
The scientists placed the worms in a warm environment of 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit). Within weeks, the worms were moving around, eating, and basically setting a new record for how long animals can survive frozen before being brought back to life.
Now, scientists had previously found bacterial spores inside 250 million year old salt crystals that they were able to bring back to life, but nematodes are both animals (rather than bacteria), and are far more complex than bacteria.
The optimistic side of this discovery is that we might be able to learn from these worms quite a bit about cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology — the latter being the study of alien life forms (not that these life forms are alien to the earth, but that their survival for so long a time might teach us something about how aliens — or we ourselves — could survive extremely long space voyages).
But the pessimistic side is indeed a dark one. As global warming thaws more and more of the world’s permafrost, the odds increase that someday the newly thawed ice will release a life form that turns into a plague.
Questions? Comments? Scurrilous comments my heart is as cold as permafrost? Even more scurrilous comments I was born of thawing permafrost?