40,000-year-old worms awakened from deep sleep

Researchers have revived nematodes that have endured for millenniums in Siberian permafrost. Biological sensation: In a cave buried for 40,000 years, Russian researchers have discovered viable nematodes.

The cave is located in present-day Siberia and was buried 40,000 years ago by debris and boulders of glacial glaciers. To reach them, the researchers had to dig 30 meters deep into the permafrost, where they found the approximately 0.5 mm long worms. These are 2 different types of nematodes that still occur today.

The unbelievable: the worms were alive again after a bath for weeks in well-tempered nutrient solution.

This 40,000-year deep sleep in the ice is biological phenomenon: the so-called cryptobiosis. Triggered by low temperatures, organisms fall into an icy deep sleep, in which the metabolic processes are extremely reduced. In this state, certain organisms are able to survive unfavorable living conditions over a longer period of time.

Publication: Doklady Biological Sciences, Vol. 480, page 100—102, 2018


Nematodes are survivalists