After 40,000 Years In Permafrost, Earth’s Ancient Lifeforms Are Awakening

Scientists have discovered nematodes as old as 41,000 years waking up from their frozen slumber.

Though climate change is causing concerns that many of Earth’s species could cease to exist in the not-too-distant future, global warming is proving a savior for another set of organisms: ancient life forms, frozen solid in Earth’s permafrost for hundreds — if not thousands — of years, are springing back to life as the ground warms.

A recent Washington Post report detailed a few of the species meeting humans face-to-face for the first time in millennia, including moss, bacteria and nematodes.

The latter wins the distinction of longest surviving and most complex organism scientists have retrieved from the permafrost to date. During her hunt for single-celled organisms in the Siberian permafrost, microbiologist Tatiana Vishnivetskaya of the University of Tennessee was shocked to find a creature boasting a brain and nervous system.

The nematodes in her petri dish — “segmented worms complete with a head at one end and anus at the other” — were as old as 41,000 years, she said.

The Post noted just how remarkable the nematode’s feat was: “This very worm dwelled in the soil beneath Neanderthals' feet and had lived to meet modern-day humans in Vishnivetskaya's high-tech laboratory.”

While global warming continues to prove a dangerous development for humans and countless other species on Earth’s land and in the planet’s waters, for those suspended in seemingly eternal frozen sleep, climate change is producing conditions that are just right.

Read the full report.

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