Should we be grateful or be concerned??

Should we be grateful or concerned??


Who would have thought that we would be able to go this far in time? By far, I mean about 46.000 years. Well, not me. But apparently, some scientists did. It all began when the scientists in question found a worm that was frozen many years ago in the Siberian permafrost. If you are thinking, “OMG, what is that even??”, well, you are on the right page! Siberian permafrost is an area which is completely frozen in Siberia, Russia. This situation in scientific language is called continuous permafrost and can happen anywhere except for big water places, like oceans and alike. Anyways, so this worm that they work with, was found there and the scientists took it and said “Hmm, let’s see what we can do with it” and started their research. I understand their latter passion since that worm, that small animal was NOT easy to find. It was about 40 meters below the surface level. I do not know about the rest but I have to give them the credit and say that I AM grateful for the effort. But I’m not really sure about the possible, potentially concerning, consequences this might bring… anyway let’s dive into it!

Teymuras Kurzchalia, one of the scientists involved in this, said that the worm was a roundworm, which is a newly discovered type of worm (yay!), and explained that it was in the permafrost in “a between life and death situation”. “One can halt life and then start it from the beginning. This a major finding,” he said. He is not wrong since that tiny roundworm is not able to continue his life after a small break of only 46.000 years. This is actually groundbreaking since many of the organisms revived from permafrost would be ‘asleep’ for a couple of decades, but 46.000?? That is fascinating. The scientists further explain the situation as that, in really high or low temperatures or in extremely salty conditions, the organism can survive without receiving any water or oxygen and keep being alive, and this is called a cryptobiotic state. Clearly, this ancient roundworm was in that cryptobiotic state.

Anastasia Shatilovich, a researcher in this project, revived two roundworms with ‘rehydrating’ them. I am sure that there is some other scientific background to that process and she did not just pour some water on them. And I know this not only by common knowledge but also from the fact that this whole process of reviving the roundworms took about 5 years. 5 YEARS!

While they were working on the worms, they also found some plant samples in the same frozen area the worms were taken from and melted carefully by the scientists. From those plants, they did some radiocarbon analysis and discovered that the sample had not been melted in a range of 45,839-47,769 years ago. So if we think that the worms were alive even before that (and for our understanding’s sake, we ignore the possibility of them being frozen and melted for another time before that too), their ancestry belongs far back in time, way far.

They ran more experiments on these worms and found out that they belonged to a novel species and named them “Panagrolaimus kolymaenis”. Such a cool name, hard to pronounce. The scientists also state that they saw, “the same biochemical pathway is used in a species which is 200-300 million years away”. So in other words, an almost completely forgotten species, wow. Again, with all the ‘thank you’s’ to the scientists involved, could this bring any issues?? What I mean is that we do not have much information on the species, so we don’t really know what to expect from it, and well isn’t it a bit scary… Anyway, what this says about the ancient scientist is not the main concern of this post, so let’s continue.

Why do I tell you about this? Well, as grateful as I am to the scientists for discovering the worm, pulling it out from 40 meters deep of pure ice in the nice weather of Siberia and reviving a life, I am also very concerned about this. Really? Just after we have dealt with many epidemics? And in this very stage of the world? I don’t want to scare anybody but, you know, the mind thinks, Okay, I respect your effort, no further questions.



Shatilovich, A., Gade, V. R., Pippel, M., Hoffmeyer, T. T., Tchesunov, A. V., Stevens, L., Winkler, S., Hughes, G. M., Traikov, S., Hiller, M., Rivkina, E., Schiffer, P. H., Myers, E. W., & Kurzchalia, T. V. (2023, July 27) A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larva. PLOS Genetics. 

Ronald. I. (2023, July 28). A worm has been revived after 46,000 years in the Siberian permafrost. CNN.

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