Recently awoken 46,000-year-old nematodes already have 100 generations of babies

Scientists have discovered an ancient 46,000-year-old soil nematode found in Siberian permafrost, and through a Sleeping Beauty-esque study, the tiny organism was woken out of a millennium’s long sleep. The findings are presented in the study published on July 27 in the journal open to access PLOS Genetics.

Scientists discovered an ancient 46,000-year-old soil nematode found in Siberian permafrost and, in a Sleeping Beauty-esque study, the tiny organism was woken up after a millennium’s long sleep. The results are reported in a study published on July 27 in the journal open to access PLOS Genetics.

After locating the animals living in Siberia’s northwestern Kolyma River, the team was able to wake them up from their frozen-in-time. The roundworms were dated by radiocarbon up to 45,839-47,769 years ago, which was when they were dire wolves, along with Neanderthals, remaining living on earth.

The genome sequence revealed that roundworms are a brand new species of Nematode. Panagrolaimus kolymaensisis is a species that is extinct in function and is now part of many of the world’s most common living organisms, which live in soil, water, and even on the ocean floor.

“P. Kolymaensis’s genome is highly contiguous and can be used to examine this feature in comparison to the genomes from other Panagrolaimus species which are currently being sequenced by Schiffer’s lab and collaborators,” study co-author and Director Emeritus of DRESDEN’s Concept Genome Center Eugene Myers said in an announcement.

According to the group, nematodes need not require much coaxing to awaken to wiggle and create more roundworms. They have created hundreds of generations of P. Kolymaensis in the lab, in which each new generation takes approximately 8-12 days.

“Basically, you only have to bring the worms into amenable conditions, on a culture (agar) plate with some bacteria, some humidity and room temperature,” study co-author and University of Cologne zoologist Philipp Schiffer explained to Vice. “They begin crawling about after which they begin to crawl around. They also start reproducing. This is made even simpler, since it’s 100% female (asexual) specie. They don’t have to hunt for males or have sex, they can just begin making eggs. The eggs then grow.”

Apart from the thrill of bringing back a species that has been slumbering deep in the earth for so long, studying these tiny spindle-shaped creatures could help scientists understand how animals adjust to the changes in their environment caused by the global climate and changing weather patterns at an atomic scale.

They discovered that exposure to mild dehydration before freezing could help P. Kolymaensis prepare itself for cryptobiosis. It also improved survival when temperatures were temperatures of -112°F. The nematodes created the sugar trehalose, which occurs when mildly dehydrated in the laboratory, possibly helping it endure extreme dehydration and freezing conditions.

“Our findings are essential for understanding evolutionary processes because generation times can range from days to millennia and because the long-term survival of a species’ individuals can result in the re-emergence of lineages that would otherwise have gone extinct,” study Schiffer declared in an announcement.


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