Scientists revived a tiny worm-like animal after 24,000 years frozen in Siberian ice. It was still able to eat and reproduce.

·2 min read
Scientists revived a tiny worm-like animal after 24,000 years frozen in Siberian ice. It was still able to eat and reproduce.
An annotated picture of a rotifer. Michael Plewka/Insider
  • Scientists were able to revive a tiny-worm like organism found in 24,000 year old Siberian ice.

  • The worm was able to eat and reproduce after thawing.

  • The findings could provide clues into how to freeze multi-cellular tissues like organs.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Russian scientists have been able to revive a tiny animal called a Bdelloid rotifer that was found in Siberian ice dating back 24,000 years.

After thawing, the tiny worm-like organism was capable of eating when fed, as can be seen in the video below.

The rotifer was able to feed after being thawed from the ice. Lyubov Shmakova

After thawing, the rotifer was also able to reproduce - which it can do without a partner, scientists said in the study.

It suggests that these multicellular animals can survive in a kind of icy holding pattern for tens of thousands of years.

"We revived animals that saw woolly mammoths," Stas Malavin from the Soil Cryology Laboratory in Russia, one of the authors of the study, told The New York Times.

The findings were published on Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Current Biology.

Rotifers are among the toughest animals in the world, Malavin told Insider in an email, known for their resistance to extreme environments. They are among the most radiation-resistant animals on Earth, and can endure extreme dehydration and low oxygen.

"If true, this would be an incredible result and extend the recorded ability of Bdelloid rotifers to survive freezing from 10 years to 30,000 years," Timothy Barraclough, a Professor of Evolutionary Biology who works on rotifers from the University of Oxford, told Insider.

However, he warned that it possible that the animals colonized the ice later than 24,000 years ago, or after the ice core was removed from the ground.

"I need a bit more persuading," he said.

These animals are not the oldest ever found to be able to survive freezing. In 2018, two parasitic worms known as nematodes were revived from ice that was at least 30,000 years old.

Understanding the biological mechanisms that drove the rotifers to survive such long periods of freezing could help scientists figure out how to better freeze tissues, such as human organs, a press release accompanying the study said.

"The takeaway is that a multi cellular organism can be frozen and stored as such for thousands of years and then return back to life - a dream of many fiction writers," Malavin said.

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