Extraterrestrial life

Worms survive Siberian permafrost for 42,000 years

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nematodes (roundworms)/Agricultural Research Service, Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, we talked about the worm that survived the space shuttle blowup and the water bears in space, in relation to the question of whether early life forms night have ended up on the moon briefly, back when the solar system was rather soupy. And now we hear this:

In Siberia, melting permafrost is releasing nematodes — microscopic worms that live in soil — that have been suspended in a deep freeze since the Pleistocene. Despite being frozen for tens of thousands of years, two species of these worms were successfully revived, scientists recently reported in a new study.

Though nematodes are tiny — typically measuring about 1 millimeter in length — they are known to possess impressive abilities. Some are found living 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers) below Earth’s surface, deeper than any other multicellular animal. Certain worms that live on an island in the Indian Ocean can develop one of five different mouths, depending on what type of food is available. Others are adapted to thrive inside slug intestines and travel on slimy highways of slug poop.Mindy Weisberger, “Worms Frozen for 42,000 Years Come Back to Life” at RealClear Science

They were able to move and eat. The worms that survived the shuttle blowup were nematodes too. Whatever the case turns out to be re the Moon, we should not underestimate life forms’ ability to find ways to somehow survive.

See also: Might we find evidence of past life on the Moon? It really depends on how long ago life got started here whether some microbial life could have been trapped on the moon and survived a while. The sagas of the worm that survived the space shuttle blowup and the water bears in space should warn against too-hasty dismissal.

Is that Mars lake way too salty for life? Yes, in Hugh Ross’s expert view. The news copy around life on Mars generally sounds as though it is written for people who have an emotional need to believe that there is life on Mars, whether there is or not. Call it a specialized version of the Drake Equation. The last place to look for reasonable skepticism often turns out to be science writing.

But if we don’t find life on either Mars or Europa… … are we justified in drawing the conclusion that life is just not very common in the galaxy and that we are special? As opposed to They Must Be Out There Somewhere, experienced as an act of faith? What makes that act of faith “science”?

4 Replies to “Worms survive Siberian permafrost for 42,000 years

  1. 1
    vmahuna says:

    Peace & joy.

    If we accept that Life was/is designed and then “installed” on Earth, then the question is whether the Designer also installed Life other places in our solar system. And I consider that unlikely, unless it’s part of some grand game of Hide and Seek: I installed Life in 3 other places; can you find them all?

    It’s clear that Luna was VERY carefully designed and constructed to perform a half dozen useful services for Earth. It’s not clear why the Designer would bother to install Life there. I mean, if nematodes and water bears are the most complicated Life possible on these various Hell holes, why bother to install Life there at all?

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    RCS predictably added GLOBAL WARMING to the subject, because Americans are unable to think of any scientific subject without blaming GLOBAL WARMING. I guess they couldn’t blame RUSSIAN MEDDLING for something that’s already in Russia.

    When you look at the original article, and the pictures of the location here:


    it’s clear that the strata are simply exposed by a cliff next to a lake. Some of the samples were cut in 2002, some in 2015. The soil was fully frozen when cut out, and was thawed in the lab.

  3. 3
    daveS says:

    This is a fascinating story. Some other events occurring around 42,000 years ago:

    50,000–30,000 years ago: Mousterian Pluvial in North Africa. The Sahara desert region is wet and fertile. Later Stone Age begins in Africa.

    42,000 years ago: Paleolithic flutes in Germany.[10]

    42,000 years ago: earliest evidence of advanced deep sea fishing technology at the Jerimalai cave site in East Timor—demonstrates high-level maritime skills and by implication the technology needed to make ocean crossings to reach Australia and other islands, as they were catching and consuming large numbers of big deep sea fish such as tuna.[11][12]

    41,000 years ago: Denisova hominin lives in the Altai Mountains.

    40,000 years ago: extinction of Homo neanderthalensis.[9]

    40,000 years ago: Aurignacian culture begins in Europe.[13]

    40,000 years ago: oldest known figurative art the zoomorphic Löwenmensch figurine.[14]

    40,000–30,000 years ago: First human settlement (Aboriginal Australians) in Sydney,[15][16] Perth[17] and Melbourne.[18]

  4. 4
    Nonlin.org says:

    So no evolution in 42,000 years?!? Nematodes have a 3 day life cycle so 42,000 nematode-years is 100 mil human-years-equivalent and no evolution? Is anyone surprised?

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