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Science & Technology

Scientists revive 10,000-year-old life forms

February 18, 2017 | Comment icon 14 comments

The Naica caves are filled with impressive crystals. Image Credit: CC BY 3.0 Alexander Van Driessche
In a remarkable breakthrough, microbes trapped inside cave crystals have been brought back to life.
The organisms were found encased inside shafts of gypsum within Mexico's Naica mountain caves - a place that has become synonymous with the study of life surviving in extreme environments.

Incredibly, after extracting microbes from within the crystals, scientists were actually able to revive them despite the fact that they had been trapped there for between 10,000 and 50,000 years.
"Other people have made longer-term claims for the antiquity of organisms that were still alive, but in this case these organisms are all very extraordinary - they are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases," said Dr Penelope Boston.

The Naica mountain caves are among the most hostile environments on Earth. Anything attempting to survive there has to deal with permanent darkness, stifling temperatures and high levels of acidity.

The fact that microbes recovered from the caves can be revived even after tens of thousands of years demonstrates just how incredibly resilient life can be.

Source: BBC News | Comments (14)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by AZDZ 5 years ago
Comment icon #6 Posted by UFOwatcher 5 years ago
Perhaps they were encased for a reason and we may soon find out why. Just joking... I think...
Comment icon #7 Posted by glorybebe 5 years ago
When I see articles like this I am reminded of movies and books that end up with massive amounts of humans dying
Comment icon #8 Posted by taniwha 5 years ago
Beautiful, I couldn't think of a more poetic end to mankind.
Comment icon #9 Posted by e7seif 5 years ago
Microbes include a lot of harmless single-celled critters that are NOT viruses. Anyway, viruses barely make it into the list of things called "microorganisms" due to not quite being alive.  Millions of microorganisms live in and around us every day and are harmless.  The scientists (probably microbiologists who make it their life's work to know these things) would know what they are reviving.
Comment icon #10 Posted by oldrover 5 years ago
 I don't get it? 
Comment icon #11 Posted by seeder 5 years ago
  OK lets try it this way....before I posted THAT link,,,,other sources were, as you may expect, spinning the story with the hint of ALIEN microbes, based I suppose on this So not only are they not closely related to anything known but they have survived between 10 and 50,000 years in a fairly sealed environment, what a hell of an achievement to revive something after that time span!! This will of course lend greater hope to the possibility of microbes from another world surviving thousand of years in space rocks, to some, while Im sure scientific minds will be seriously intrigued by something... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by oldrover 5 years ago
Now I get it, those are interesting points which I hadn't considered. Thanks. 
Comment icon #13 Posted by Sundew 5 years ago
No need, Yersinia pestis, the organism that causes the Black Plague is alive and well in rodent populations in the desert Southwest, and in labs all over the world. Fortunately, if caught early it's treatable with antibiotics, something our ancestors didn't have access to. 
Comment icon #14 Posted by capeo 5 years ago
The whole "not closely related" bit is being overblown by pop-sci media. The microbes in question do in fact share much genetic similarity to other extremophile microbes that metabolize inorganic compounds.  In actuality, theses extremophiles are being found to be so common now that NASA's biggest fear is them accidentally hitching a ride to another planet or moon and contaminating any existing microbial ecosystem that may be there. 

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