As climate change continues to melt away Earth’s glaciers and polar landscapes, life forms frozen for millennia are starting to come alive again. Thawing permafrost in Siberia and melting glaciers in Greenland are slowly unearthing a host of ancient life forms ranging from viruses and bacteria to plants and even some animals that have been cryogenically preserved there for thousands of years.
Gizmodo reports that “self-styled ‘resurrection ecologists,’” are at the forefront of these discoveries. In 2012, scientists were able to germinate flowers from a handful of 32,000 year-old seeds found in an excavation of the Siberian tundra. And last year researchers managed to hatch 700 year-old eggs that were found in the bottom of a Minnesota lake. And another team revived some Antarctic moss that was frozen since the 5th Century. Bacteria, however, seem to be the champs of cryogenic survival, with one bacterium found alive after being frozen for about 8 million years.
You may now be getting ready to head to your bomb shelter to await the coming plague/apocalypse to be brought on as mastodons, wooly mammoths and all manner of primordial plagues take over Earth. But fear not, Gizmodo notes that most of the thawed-out life forms being found are harmless. And in fact, they are benefitting science by providing a look into the planet’s past that could offer clues to help us survive into the future.
According to their 2013 “resurrection ecology manifesto,” these scientists say cryogenically frozen specimens are akin to an “evolutionary time machine” that give researchers a new way to look into the past and observe evolution in real time. And discoveries they’ve made could help give endangered species a boost, and represent a way to eventually restore lost diversity on Earth.