They broke their own record: rotifers survived in permafrost for 24,000 years

(ORDO NEWS) — The hardy rotifer has proven its ability to survive extreme conditions time and time again, but 24,000 years is a historic feat even for this tiny creature. It turned out that these microorganisms were able to stay in the permafrost for just that long and survive.

Rotifers, or rotifers, are multicellular microscopic organisms that live in fresh water. It is already known that they can withstand freezing (even in liquid nitrogen), boiling, drying and radiation. They can even survive for millions of years without sexual intercourse.

The modest but surprisingly hardy bdeloid rotifer has again surprised scientists. A recent study in a 24,000-year-old permafrost excavation found living (or at least regenerating) rotifers. Survival for such a long period in deep freeze conditions is a new record for this species.

The researchers found that rotifers can survive a relatively slow freezing process (about 45 minutes). This is important because ice crystals formed quite gradually inside the cells of animals – a phenomenon that is usually traditional for living organisms.

In fact, everyone involved in cryopreservation needs a defense mechanism against this, which makes the latest finding especially important from this point of view.

This is also important because rotifers are one of the most difficult microorganisms to cryopreserve – they have such organs as the brain and intestines.

Return to the ecosystem

Rotifers are not the only living organisms that survive in permafrost or ice. The same researchers who made the latest discovery had previously found viable roundworms around 40,000 years old in crisis.

Ancient moss, seeds, viruses and bacteria have also shown remarkable longevity, raising legitimate concerns about whether any potentially dangerous pathogens could be released from glaciers and permafrost during the melting process.

Given that bdeloids generally only pose a threat to bacteria, algae, and detritus, there is little reason to be concerned about this particular discovery.

But as key players at the bottom of the food chain, the newly discovered rotifers indicate that perhaps we should be thinking about how species that have not been seen for millennia can be reintegrated into modern ecosystems.

The permafrost crisis is still inhabited by numerous species of organisms. At least on a microscopic level, it seems possible that intact microecosystems could thaw together (nematodes, rotifers, protozoa, viruses, bacteria, etc.).

How these long-dormant species will compete or co-exist with modern ecosystems is still difficult to predict, but is probably worth considering.

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