Worms that ended up in a Siberian layer of ice 40,000 years ago, appear to be able to come alive again, as Russian biologists have discovered.
The biologists have excavated more than 300 samples from different layers of frozen soil. The soil in the samples comes from different eras. In two of those samples, biologists were able to discover viable roundworms. Using carbon dating, the scientists were able to establish that the worms were at least 40,000 years old. But what is even more striking: in a warm lab, of about 20 degrees, they could come back to life. After some time they started to crawl around and eat again.
That worms can survive in a layer of ice after 40,000 years may also mean that other organisms, such as viruses and bacteria, remain in the permafrost for so long. The fact that climate change is defrosting the permafrost even further can also mean that potentially deadly viruses and bacteria can return after such a long 'hibernation'.
At the same time the Siberian region is also struggling still with another problem that increases the risk of 'thawing' of 'old' bacteria: there are gigantic bubbles of methane gas under the ground. Due to the warm weather in Siberia as a result of climate change, the soil thaws much more than normal, allowing huge amounts of methane gas to be released. And that gas leads to a much larger greenhouse effect for the earth than the emission of CO2 in the air.
Result: a vicious circle, because by a larger greenhouse effect, the permafrost will thaw even faster and the methane gas bubbles will be even faster and released in larger quantities, which could dramatically increase global warming.