Frozen in Siberia for 24,000 years, an animal comes back to life

Bdeloid rotifers not only withstand extremely low temperatures, they can also survive in permafrost for many years. A scientific article describing this extraordinary ability was recently published online in the journal Current Biology.

Although they are microscopic – their size is between 0.1 and 2 millimeters – these creatures impress with their great resilience. They effectively support drought, famine, lack of oxygen, but also frost. In addition, rotifers are anything but a simple microorganism. This is a real animal model.

A multicellular organism

As a multicellular organism, the animal has a brain, a stomach and several sensory organs. He even has striated muscles and a type of jaw in the throat called a mastax. Previous research has shown that Bdeloid rotifers can survive for up to 10 years in a frozen state through a slow-motion survival mode (cryptobiosis).

But in a new study, Russian scientists say they used the technique of radiocarbon dating to determine that the rotifers they recovered from the Siberian permafrost were around 23,960 to 24,485 years old. Note that these microscopic animals got their name from the fact that their rotating apparatus resembles spinning wheels.

The specimen has successfully reproduced

In addition, the research document indicates that the rotifer survived freezing at a temperature of -15 ° C for a week. This experiment was conducted with the aim of studying how the animal can survive in extreme conditions. Surprisingly, despite tens of thousands of years in Siberian permafrost and those harsh laboratory tests, the tiny creature belonging to the genus Adineta has still been able to reproduce in a clonal process known as parthenogenesis.

In fact, reproduction in bdeloids is asexual. The species does not contain any males. The offspring are therefore natural clones. “The bottom line is that a multicellular organism as such can be frozen and stored as such for thousands of years and then brought back to life, a dream shared by many novelists,” says Russian biologist Stas Malavin, reports Aljazeera.

An achievement that is not unique

Unlike most multicellular life forms, which cannot resist the formation of ice crystals in their bodies, rotifers appear to have a unique mechanism of survival. This allows them to protect their cells and organs from damage that can be caused by extremely low temperatures. In any case, this return to life after almost 24,000 years of sleep is not a real record.

As our source points out, worms called nematodes came back to life in the Siberian permafrost after around 40,000 years. What’s even more impressive is that in 2020, scientists at the Japanese Agency for Underwater Science and Technology succeeded in resuscitating 101-million-year-old bacteria found in marine sediments in the South Pacific.

Photos taken under an electron microscope showing the morphological variation of Ferris wheels and their “jaws”. Copyright: By Diego Fontaneto – Who Needs Sex (or Men)? Gross, L. PLoS Biologie Vol. 5, No. 4, e99 doi: 10.1371 / journal.pbio.0050099, CC BY 2.5

But rotifers always impress because they are multicellular and therefore complex organisms. “Of course, the more complex the organism, the more difficult it is to keep it alive when it is frozen. This is not currently possible for mammals, ”added Malavin, as quoted by CBS News.

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