Image Source: P. Boelen/BAS

There was a time on Earth when there was only ice and glaciers throughout the Arctic which is called the Little Ice Age. The whole surface used to be covered with big glaciers from about 1550 to 1850. A species of plant known as moss was buried inside the Teardrop Glacier which is situated on Canada’s Ellesmere Island. The plant was buried inside the frozen glacier in an about 100-foot-thick slab of ice. The plant was buried since 1850 till humans came up with antibiotics, made the atmosphere of the Earth hell by burning a lot of fossil fuel resource and visited the moon as well as discovered a lot of things.

Due to the excessive temperature rise in the atmosphere, the glaciers started to melt and that’s what gave the biologist Catherine La Farge a chance to discover the fauna which was buried in the ice for so many centuries. Catherine La Farge visited Teardrop and found the Aulacomnium turgidum as it finally came out of the glacier. The condition of the moss was terrible as it was faded and distorted but was a bit green in color which made it clear that there was a possible sign of life.

Climate change is one of the most rising topics on Earth right now and the picture got more clear when a United Nations report said that a lot of plants and animal species are on a verge of extinction and the number is not less as it is more than 1 million. But looking on the bright side, the species which were once extinct are now coming into notice after the melting of the ice. Biologists and geologists are up to exploring the melting points of the Arctic and so far they have discovered organisms which are frozen and dead since a very long time and by studying about their biological inheritance, those species can get a life again. The frozen species include from simple bacteria to multicellular animals and after studying them scientists are pretty confident that they can give life to those species and work with them to make the world a better place.


“You wouldn’t assume that anything buried for hundreds of years would be viable,” said La Farge, who researches mosses at the University of Alberta. She visited he Teardrop back in 2009 and collected blackened plant matter which came out of the melting ice. Their main motive was to understand and collect data which helped to form the ecosystem of the island they went to study. “The material had always been considered dead. But by seeing green tissue, “I thought, ‘Well, that’s pretty unusual’,” La Farge said about the centuries-old moss tufts she found. The samples that were collected from the island were brought back to Edmonton and the samples came out to be very productive as when they were studied La Farge found the signs of rich nutrients in the soil. “We were pretty blown away,” La Farge said. She explained that it is very difficult for the soil to survive in such a frozen state as the ice crystals have a tendency to shred the cell membranes and other biological necessities. Mosses have a very difficult life as they get dry when the temperature falls and the possibility of the tissue damage in the plant gets high and if the damage occurs, the cells can divide and differentiate into different tissues that can sabotage the nature of moss which is similar to stem cells in human embryos. Thanks to these adaptations, mosses are more likely than other plants to survive long-term freezing, said Peter Convey, an ecologist with the British Antarctic Survey. After the big reveal of the moss by La Farge and her team, Convey’s team announced that the study has given a light of hope to a 1,500-year-old moss which was buried more than three feet under the ice in the Antarctic permafrost.

“The permafrost environment is very stable,” said Convey, he also noticed that the frozen soil has a tendency to detach the moss from the surface level tension like DNA-damaging radiation. The study showed that the glaciers are like a death station for the multicellular life. Convey also explained that if the lad is exposed after the melting of the ice, it is very natural for plants to change their habitat from “somewhere else” by the use of the spores as those spores travel by the wind. Such processes are very slow as they can even take more than a decade to reform somewhere else. But “when something can survive in situ,” said Convey of the moss his team discovered, “that really accelerates the recolonization process.” These mosses can paint a lifeless landscape green almost overnight, paving the way for other organisms to arrive and establish.

Tatiana Vishnivetskaya is a well-known microbiologist who has been studying the ancient microbes for a long time and she is capable of making some serious feel routines. Tatiana Vishnivetskaya is a microbiologist at the University of Tennessee. She has been studying the deep Siberian permafrost in the search of single-celled organisms that vanished ice ages ago. She has even bought back a million-year-old bacteria on a petri dish. They look “very similar to bacteria you can find in cold environments [today],” she said. Vishnevskaya’s team announced an “accidental finding” when they found an organism with a brain and a nervous system which made them curious to understand such high endurance. “Of course we were surprised and very excited,” Vishnivetskaya said. Her team was looking for the single-celled organisms as usual and when they found something, they placed the material on a petri dish in their lab which was at its room-temperature and they were pretty shocked to see what they had in the petri dish. They found a half-millimeter long nematode which came back to life and it was the most unusual and complex creature that Vishnivetskaya or anyone else had discovered. SHe came to the conclusion that the nematode was around 41,000 years old which was by far the oldest living organism ever discovered. Vishnivetskaya later gave the organism a home as she let the worm go into the soil and meet modern-day humans in her high-tech laboratory.


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