Green moss trees return after 40,000 years of freezing under glaciers

Ancient moss plants wilt due to the long time buried under the ice becomes green when planted in the soil, surprising the team.

Melted ice and permafrost permeate the life of some species. Scientists found many frozen organizations believed to have died during the millennium still showing signs of life. The resilience of organizations from bacteria to multicellular organisms has contributed to changing the understanding of researchers about survival.

In 1850, the Teardrop glacier on Canada’s Ellesmere Island covered a moss. The hardened moss under the thick ice for a long time until the weather warmed helps it escape the ice grave. The research team discovered ancient moss trees in a state of stained and crushed, but still green at one end.


“You don’t think anything buried in such a hundred years can survive,” said evolutionary biologist Catherine La Farge of the University of Alberta, Canada. “That thing is often seen as dead. But when I see the blue tissue, I think it’s unusual.”

La Farge brought the moss specimen to the lab and placed it in the nutrient-rich soil. Nearly a third of the specimens revived. The mosses grow new buds and leaves, and only show little impact when frozen in deep soil for centuries.

Ecologist Peter Convey of the British Antarctic Survey says moss has a special adaptation that makes it easier to survive than other plants after hardening for a long time. Following La Farge to revive the moss on Ellesmere Island, Convey and his colleagues also woke up a 1,500-year-old moss that was buried one meter below the Antarctic permafrost. They also found it possible to revive more complex organizations. Previously, researchers believed that single-celled organism is the only form of life that can survive after a millennium resting under the ice.

Microbiologist Tatiana Vishnivetskaya from the University of Tennessee, USA and colleagues successfully revived the estimated roundworms dating to 42,000 years. Gaetan Borgonie, expert on nematodes at the Extreme Life Isyensya Institute in Gentbrugge, Belgium, said that when environmental conditions become unfavorable, the animal can enter a dormant state called a dauer stage. They can be eaten first to store energy and create a protective shell before extreme temperatures.

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