The moss that was revived by a team of British scientists. (Photo: AP Photo/British Antarctic Survey, Esme Roads)
A team of British scientists have revived a species of 1,600-year-old moss that had been frozen under the Antarctic — and it didn't involve any scientific trickery, genetic manipulations or Jurassic Park-style cloning.
The team from the University of Reading managed the feat by thawing moss collected from deep in the permafrost on Signy Island, an Antarctic island about 1,300 km south of Cape Horn that is known for its mossy shores. The team then shipped the specimens back to England frozen, and once there, incubated the samples at 17 degrees C. Three weeks later, new shoots appeared — and the only interventions from scientists during that time were periodic sprays of distilled water.
The results were published yesterday in the journal Current Biology.
"The shoots are alive right the way through the moss bank," Professor Peter Convey, one of the study's co-authors, told the BBC. "The blue sky result is that we've really stuck a much older age on recovery than anyone has done so far."
Convey said that the findings could help scientists rethink how we determine what is and is not dead. And just like we learned two weeks ago with the reemergence of a virus from under the permafrost in Siberia, the findings also shed light on possible repercussions of climate change as the permafrost thaws and reveals a host of long-dormant organisms.
"In Antarctica, you've got survival challenges over a lot of different time scales," said Convey. "If you can get to 1,500 years, what's the possibility of surviving an entire glacial cycle?"
Via The Verge