They’re back! Worms unfrozen after 42,000 years are alive and eat

Two worms that have been frozen in the permafrost for 42,000 years are coming back to life and are now considered the oldest living animals on the planet in what is described as a great scientific discovery.

The ancient nematodes  “move and eat” for the first time since the Pleistocene, after having returned to life in Petri dishes, according to a new study conducted by a team of Russian scientists in collaboration with the University of Princeton.

“We obtained the first data demonstrating the ability of multicellular organisms for long-term cryoidosis in arctic permafrost reservoirs,” the study authors wrote.

Around 300 prehistoric worms were thawed in a laboratory at the Institute of Soils, Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science in Moscow and were analyzed by the study. Since then, two females “have shown signs of life” in a small but revolutionary victory for the researchers.

“Our data demonstrate the ability of multicellular organisms to survive in long-term (tens of thousands of years) cryobiosis under natural cryopreservation conditions”.

“Clearly, this ability suggests that Pleistocene nematodes have survival mechanisms that may be of scientific and practical importance for related scientific fields, such as cryomedicine, cryobiology and astrobiology.”

The two worms come from two regions of Yakutia, the coldest region of Russia. One, estimated about 32,000 years ago, came from a nest of squirrels on a permanent ice wall near the Pleistocene Park. The other, about 47,000 years old, was found in the permafrost near the Alazeya River in 2015.