63: Ancient Round Worms

63: Ancient Round Worms

Brain Junk
Brain Junk
63: Ancient Round Worms

Dug out of the Siberian permafrost completely by chance, two female round worms appear to revive after 41,000 years.


Episode Transcript: 

Welcome to Brain Junk! I’m Trace Kerr, and I’m Amy Barton, and this is a Brain Storm about round worms.

AB: Because we talked about flat worms recently, now we’re going to talk about round worms. Trace is excited-I can tell already. These are Siberian round worms-does that make you more excited about it? 

TK: They sound exotic. I’m imagining them drinking vodka and wearing fuzzy hats.

AB: I am sorry to report that that is not their life. Their life is that they have been buried in Yakutia, Siberia, for someehere in the neighborhood of 40,000 years down in the perma-frost. For those that need a little bit of a refresher that haven’t been watching a lot of nature shows, certain areas, it never thaws beyond, in this particular area, they have about a 3 foot, it’ll thaw in the summertime about 3 feet down. So if you’r making a garden, or burying a body, it’s gonna have to be in the three foot zone, otherwise you’re going to need a concrete buster. So these guys were farther down than that. A team of Russian scientists, working in collaboration with Princeton University found viable specimens whil they were looking at 300 soil samples in the Arctic perma-frost. So they’re taking samples, there looking to see what’s in there. They’re looking for other things. One was a squirrel burrow, located in Duvenny Yar, I don’t know, I’m probably pronouncing that in the French way. It was an outcropping that dated about 32,000 years ago, and they also found a sample that was about 41,000 years old. So very old, very deep and they found nematodes, round worms, and they think they were female round worms. So they had the samples out, they were in a 68 degree environment, and they’re just hanging out, and scientists noticed that they began to move again. And not just like, cause after a day or so, when something thaws it changes shape a little. But it wasn’t that. It was after days and days they began moving and eating. 

TK: Holy cow!

AB: Yeah! 41,000 year old round worm.

TK: That’s stunning, and kind of disturbing, because what else is out there that’s gonna thaw out eventually that we’re not ready for. 


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