Samples of roundworms frozen for over 40,000 year in the Siberian permafrost have been recently thawed reveling that the nematodes were alive. In a matter of weeks the roundworms were able to move and eat, raising the bar for the record time an animal can survive in cryogenic suspension. The result may allow us to increase our own endurance to cold.
Over 300 samples of frozen soil dating from different periods was dug up by Russian scientists from different locations and transported to their laboratory in Moscow for further analysis. Samples recovered from parts of northeastern Russia contained viable nematodes from two different gena. The samples were placed into Petri dishes along with nutrient solutions. After several weeks the worms showed signs of life.
Worms from the Plectus genus were found at a depth of approximately 3, 5 meters (about 11.5 feet) and tests revealed that he sample was 42,000 years old. Some worms of the Panagrolaimus genus were found in what seemed to be a ground squirrel burrow which was 32,000 years old according to carbon dating tests.
While contamination cannot be ruled out, strict hygiene procedures were followed by the scientists. The worms themselves do not burrow to such depths and there has been indication that thawing went beyond 1, 5 meters. It can be confidently said that the worms are indeed as old as the tests suggest. The waking of such old organisms has happened before with scientists pulling spores from Bacillus bacteria which resided in 250 million years salt crystals and managing to revive them. The impressive endurance cannot be applied to our own species for now but it may help us develop some ways of becoming more resistant to harsh living environments. Roundworms have been known to be particularly resistant but no other samples as old as this have been revived with such success.
We can only hope that no severe disease can survive such temperatures for long periods of time, as it would cause serious problems in our modern times.