An animal was brought back to life after 30 years in Japan. The country’s National Institute of Polar Research scientists were able to revive a tardigrade, also called a water bear, after it had been frozen in Antarctica for three decades.
Water bears a very small; the “extremophiles” are only about one millimeter long. They live in the water and are known to be extremely hardy. Tardigrades can survive in an underwater environment them with not only intense pressure and severe temperatures but radiation exposure as well, the Wall Street Journal notes. The water bears are believed to morph into a state of cryptobiosis and shut down their metabolic activities for a significant amount of time when faced with deadly environmental conditions.
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Japan National Institute of Polar Research scientists collected two tardigrades in a moss sample in Antarctica in 1983. The water bears were kept in a storage habitat with the temperature set at about -4 degrees until the researchers defrosted them in 2014. Once the warming project began, the tardigrades began to show signs of life. One water bear died after 20 days, but the other one started to return to normalcy on day 29.
A landmark experiment with the water bears by the European Space Agency in 2007 involved a successful launching of the tiny creatures into space. The scientists sent 3,000 into space for 12 days during the study. Previously, Japanese scientists revived a tardigrade that had been frozen for about nine years. The researchers feel that continued study of the creatures and their habits will enhance the understanding and overall long-term survival of all cryptobiotic organisms, the recently published study said.
After researchers had unearthed the two water bears in the moss 30 years ago, they also found an egg spawned by one of the eight-legged creatures. The egg hatched, and the water bear started moving about and eating in about 14 days. The tardigrade laid a total of 19 eggs, and 14 of them hatched, a report by Cryobiology revealed. Some of the eggs took longer to hatch than others, a fact that proved a little baffling for researchers. However, no anomalies were reportedly found in any of the water bear eggs.
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Here’s an excerpt from the Institute of Polar Research report about reviving two water bears after 30 years.
“This considerable extension of the known length of long-term survival of tardigrades recorded in our study is interpreted as being associated with the minimum oxidative damage likely to have resulted from storage under stable frozen conditions.”
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The survival of the tardigrades used in the Japanese study is reportedly due at least in part to the “minimum oxidative damage” the water bears endured while being kept in a frozen yet stable environment. The lengthy duration it took for the animals to revive after their 30-year deep freeze has been attributed to the span needed for their bodies to repair the damage that occurred while being in a cryptobiosis state. Additional studies into the matter are expected to bring to light an increased understanding of both the conditions and physical mechanisms of the survival attributes of cryptobiotic organisms, the report notes.
Even though the scientists have been able to accomplish a task that appeared impossible, they admit the ability of the tardigrades to survive being frozen for decades still remains a mystery.
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