German scientists managed to revive nematodes (parasitic roundworms) of an unknown extinct species that had been “sleeping” in the permafrost of Siberia for more than 46,000 years. This is reported by Vice, citing scientific publication of Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics.
The nematodes were found in the permafrost along the Kolyma River, where they were stored in the fossilized burrows of arctic gophers. According to radiocarbon dating of plant material, in samples that date from 45,839 to 47,769 years from the present. The newly discovered and no longer existing today, or rather the newly existing species of nematode was named Panagrolaimus kolymaensis.
Almost immediately after “thawing”, nematodes began to reproduce. The team of scientists has already raised more than 100 generations of Panagrolaimus kolymaensis in the laboratory. Each new generation of nematodes lives from 8 to 12 days.
This discovery is “important for the understanding of evolutionary processes because generation times could be stretched from days to millennia, and long-term survival of individuals of species can lead to the refoundation of otherwise extinct lineages,” wrote the journal PLoS Genetics, in which the work was published.
Scientists are now comparing Panagrolaimus kolymaensis with species of the same genus, specimens of which are collected around the world. By studying their genomes, scientists hope to learn a lot about how these populations have become different over the past 40,000 years.
This is not the first example of the “resurrection” of organisms that existed in the past. For example, in 1995 scientists grew bacteria that lived at least 25 million years ago and left viable spores in amber fossils. As for nematodes, the previous record for “revived nematodes” was achieved in 2019 when scientists made 41,000-year-old nematodes come to life.