Scientists Revive Extinct Animals Found in Ice Age Permafrost

Aaron Rutten /
Aaron Rutten /

At some point, we’ve all wondered what life might be like had some now-extinct creatures populated the earth today. But one group of scientists made this question a reality, bringing back animals found frozen in permafrost for thousands of years.

Now, before you get too excited (or worried), know that they didn’t bring back anything like a wooly mammoth or saber-toothed tiger. Instead, they were microscopic roundworms known as nematodes.

For scientists today, they are a “new” species. But they actually existed thousands of years ago, according to carbon dating in the time of the ice ages.

According to studies on the worms, these nematodes were trapped for roughly 46,000 years in the frozen permafrost near the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia, Russia. Apparently, rather than being dead, the worms entered a state of cryptobiosis, in which their metabolism slowed to a near halt to survive the long, cold winter.

And since nematodes have been known to live in such a state for a while, scientists thought it would be cool to bring these little guys back to life. And so, they did.

Now, to be sure, the lifespan of these worms while not in cryptobiosis is only a few months long. So, all those nematodes they brought back are officially dead now. However, during their time alive, scientists were able to breed them and now live out their dreams of studying the originals’ offspring.

But why do this?

Well, as Vice reported, the idea is to study just how long creatures like this could live and have their lifespans stretched. And, of course, if this could one day be used for the “refoundation of otherwise extinct lineages.”

Of course, the question here is whether this is a good idea or not, right? How dangerous could it be to bring back things that, according to nature, have no business being alive now? Could they also bring back dangerous diseases we don’t have immunity to?

As I used to tell my son all too often, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should…