Much like the concept of Futurama, nature has produced a creature hardy enough to survive being completely frozen for decades. Japanese scientists successfully revived tiny tardigrades – or “water bears”, their common name due to the shape of their heads – after they had been frozen for 30 years. Known as some of the most resilient living things on the planet, the water bears even lived long enough to reproduce.
Cryptobiosis occurs when all metabolic processes cease due to extreme environmental conditions, like freezing. Scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research collected two tardigrades and a tardigrade egg from a sample of moss in 1893 and kept them frozen at minus 20 degrees Celsius. Pulling them out of their cryptobiotic state in 2014 resulted in one tardigrade recovering fully in about one week and one that didn’t pull through. The frozen egg was also successfully revived and went on to hatch, reach adulthood, and lay eggs of its own.
This experiment beats the previous record of tardigrade freezing and reviving, which was 9 years. Yet, it doesn’t quite break the record for any living organism being brought back to life after being on ice. That record belongs to a nematode that survived freezing for 39 years.