Microscopic creatures kept frozen for more than three decades have been successfully brought back to life. The 1mm long tardigrades were collected from a frozen moss sample in Antarctica in 1983, according to a new paper published in the journal Cryobiology. Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research stored the 8 legged, segmented critters at -4F for just over 30 years. They thawed and revived two of the animals, which are also known as water bears or moss piglets, in early 2014.
One of them died 20 days into the experiment, reports the BBC. But its companion survived and managed to reproduce with a third tardigrade that had been hatched from a frozen egg. It went on to lay 19 eggs, of which 14 survived. Tardigrades, found living in water across the world, are renowned for being tough and have previously survived several days after being blasted into space. According to Japan’s The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, their metabolism shuts down and they enter a cryptobiotic state when faced with low temperatures.
The previous record for tardigrades surviving extreme cold was eight years. “The present study extends the known length of long-term survival in tardigrade species considerably,” researchers wrote in the newly released paper. Lead researcher Megumu Tsujimoto said the team now wants to “unravel the mechanism for long-term survival by looking into damage to tardigrades’ DNA and their ability to repair it.”
The tardigrade has some way to go beat the record for surviving in a frozen state, however, which is currently held by the nematode worm – which managed 39 years in deep freeze before being revived.