In a major scientific breakthrough, worms that have been trapped in permafrost for tens of thousands of years have come back to life, and are said to be moving and eating.

They are now considered the world’s oldest living animals.

Signs Of Life

Prehistoric nematodes are said to be showing signs of life and eating after researchers from various institutions collaborated and defrosted the permafrost they were trapped in for tens of thousands of years. Researchers evidently analyzed over 300 samples of permafrost from different origins and ages, and found two that were the most viable samples that contained nematodes, or more commonly known as roundworms.

Both samples came from the cold Yakutia region in Russia, but one came from a permafrost wall in a squirrel burrow, while the other was found in permafrost near the Alazeya river way back in 2015. Radiocarbon dating revealed that the permafrost in the squirrel burrow to be about 32,000 years old, while the permafrost near the Alazeya river was found to be about 41,700 years old.

The permafrost samples were placed in petri dishes and kept at 20 degrees Celsius for several weeks. The nematodes that emerged from the permafrost are believed to both be female, and researchers note that they have since showed “signs of life.” In fact, they are said to be moving and eating again for the first time since they were trapped by the permafrost during the Pleistocene age.

Longterm Cryobiosis

Researchers of the study present the first data that shows how multicellular organisms such as nematodes have the capability for longterm cryobiosis. In their study in particular, they presented how such creatures can survive for tens of thousands of years under natural cryoconservation.

“It is obvious that this ability suggests that the Pleistocene nematodes have some adaptive mechanisms that may be of scientific and practical importance for the related fields of science, such as cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology,” researchers noted.

The study was carried out by Russian scientists from Moscow State University, The Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, Pertsov White Sea Biological Station, and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. The research was also conducted in collaboration with researchers from The Department of Geosciences at Princeton University. The study is published in Doklady Biological Sciences.


The results of the study may once again bring the conversation on cryonics into the spotlight. Simply put, cryonics is the practice in which a body is cryonically frozen in hopes of being restored or resurrected in some way in the future, perhaps when a cure for a certain disease comes along.

Still, even if there are already companies that offer such services, many scientists are still skeptical about the procedure, as the human body is actually quite complex. It is, however, useful in helping to preserve harvested organs to minimize damage before transplantation.

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