Ancient Roundworm Gets Resurrected After 46,000 Years of Death-Defying Limbo

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In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists were able to revive an ancient roundworm found frozen in Siberian permafrost for tens of thousands of years. Initially thought to be about 32,000 years old, more precise radiocarbon dating now indicates that these nematodes, which belong to the genus Panagrolaimus, have remained in cryptobiosis for a minimum of 46,000 years, setting a new record for the longest known state of extreme inactivity in animal life, as ScienceAlert reveals.

The newfound species was dubbed Panagrolaimus kolymaensis, and it showcases an incredible ability to survive harsh environmental conditions by entering a desiccated state known as cryptobiosis. The discovery places the nematode in the ranks of a select few creatures, such as tardigrades and rotifers, which are capable of enduring such an extraordinary phenomenon.

The worm’s genome analysis reveals a significant overlap of genes with its living relative, Caenorhabditis elegans, which usually thrives in temperate regions. These shared genes are crucial in surviving the cryptobiotic state, suggesting that adaptation to short-term cryptobiosis in environments such as permafrost has given some nematode species the potential to endure geological timeframes in this suspended animation.

Unraveling the secrets of long-term cryptobiosis could hold promising implications that exceed scientific curiosity. Understanding how these organisms withstand such extended periods of dormancy could provide valuable insights into storing cells and tissues over large and extended periods of time.

The study, conducted by experts from the Max Planck Institute in Germany and published in PLOS Genetics, opens a window into the ancient past, showcasing the unbelievable resilience of life forms that have survived throughout millennia, waiting to reveal their mysteries to the world of science.

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