Tardigrade resurrected after being frozen for 30 years, lays eggs

Jan 19, 2016

You can freeze them, burn them, dry them out or even blast them into space, but humble tardigrades can survive it all.

As a demonstration of tardigrade power, a new experiment has shown that even locking the critters in a block of ice for three decades fails to deliver the ultimate knockout.

Japanese researchers successfully brought two tardigrades — often called “water bears” for their claws and head shape — back to life after being frozen for 30 years. A separate team of Japanese researchers with the 24th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition discovered the eight-legged, microscopic pair of animals back in 1983 in a frozen sample of moss, which was kept below freezing to the present day.

It’s Alive!

Thirty years later, all it took was a good thaw and a nutrient-rich solution for the tardigrades to begin wiggling their legs and stretching their bodies, coming back to life after decades of stasis. Their recovery was slow, because they needed time to repair cellular damage — imagine how you would feel after spending 30 years frozen stiff.

While one died a little more than two weeks after resuscitation, the other tardigrade eventually went on to lay eggs that hatched, proving that tardigrades can not only come back to life, they also bring forth new life after a lengthy slumber. An egg found frozen alongside the two adults in 1983 hatched and went on to reproduce, as well. Researchers published their findings in the journal Cryobiology.

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6 comments on “Tardigrade resurrected after being frozen for 30 years, lays eggs

  • @OP – Japanese researchers successfully brought two tardigrades — often called “water bears” for their claws and head shape — back to life after being frozen for 30 years.

    This has implications for the possibility of Earth organisms being blasted into space by meteor impacts, and then surviving long enough to reach other planets.



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  • From the article:

    The tardigrade hasn’t captured the reanimation crown yet though. That honor goes to a species of nematode, a type of microscopic worm. Five worms of the species Tylenchus polyhypnus were revived after a record-setting 39 years back in 1946.



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  • …back to life.

    From where (or whence)?

    Rather than “coming back to life” (silly, inaccurate phrase), this is (obviously) a case of extreme resilience (resistance to death). Stasis is still life (no pun intended?), but it sure does blur the line (more than it already was) between living and non-living. It seems that the simpler (less complex) the organism, the less prone it is to being “disrupted” by the effects of environments that are generally not conducive to survival.



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  • Yay, Go Tardigrades. My favourite little critters. Invasion of the Tardigrades?

    If we do find life beyond Earth, would anyone be surprised if they looked a bit like these?



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