In an age where climate change threatens biodiversity and the existence of numerous species, the resurrection of an extinct animal from a 46,000-year-old slumber has unlocked a new realm of scientific possibilities. Back in 2018, scientists made the groundbreaking announcement that they had discovered and revived two types of microscopic nematodes from Siberian permafrost. According to Vice, their re-emergence prompted a wave of research that led to the discovery that one of these nematode varieties represents a new species, dubbed Panagrolaimus kolymaensis for the Kolyma River where they were found.
Scientists resurrected small animals known as nematodes from permafrost that lasted 46,000 years.
Previous attempts to reawaken frozen microscopic life have seen success, particularly with some nematode species, but the discovery of Panagrolaimus kolymaensis represents an unprecedented leap, being the oldest by several thousand years. This extraordinary resurrection of the once-extinct animal was surprisingly straightforward.
Thawing the frozen soil led to the nematode’s revival and subsequent breeding, facilitated by its asexual reproduction method. Intriguingly, more than 100 generations of Panagrolaimus kolymaensis, each living between one to two weeks, have been observed in lab conditions, suggesting significant variability in these nematodes’ generation times.
Experiments have also shown that, similar to another microscopic roundworm, C. elegans, the new nematode species withstands freezing and dehydration better when exposed to mildly desiccating conditions before intense freezing.
Thawing the frozen soil led to the nematode’s revival and subsequent breeding, facilitated by its asexual reproduction method.
This preconditioning phase triggers the nematodes to produce a sugar called trehalose, which is believed to aid in preserving their DNA, cells, and proteins from deterioration. Teymuras Kurzchalia, a cell biologist emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, said that research on identifying essential proteins for this process are in progress, employing techniques that can mute or eliminate genes.
Despite their lack of visual appeal compared to many extinct animals showcased in media, nematodes, or microscopic roundworms, hold a pivotal role in worldwide soil ecosystems. The revival of these extinct species by scientists has unveiled crucial data about our planet’s ancient past and could provide vital insights to prevent future extinctions.
A study published in PLoS Genetics argues that this extraordinary discovery can profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary processes, illustrating how species’ generation times can vary from a few days to millennia, possibly facilitating the resurgence of extinct lineages.
Phillipp Schiffer, a co-author of the study and an evolutionary biologist at the University of Cologne, stated that comparisons are being drawn between the revived extinct animals and similar species worldwide.
Currently undertaking fieldwork in the Australian Outback, Schiffer is part of a team dedicated to this global comparative research. Their main aim is to decode the evolutionary adaptations and diversity that these species have experienced over the past 40,000 years.
The revival of these extinct species by scientists has unveiled crucial data about our planet’s ancient past and could provide vital insights to prevent future extinctions.
The concept of an extinct animal being resurrected after 46,000 years and reproducing might seem far-fetched, bordering on science fiction. However, the recent study indicates that nematodes and possibly other resilient species have developed this remarkable capability to survive challenging periods. These findings not only provide a glimpse into the distant past but also open up discussions about how organisms will adapt to future stresses, including those induced by human activities.