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24,000-year-old organisms found frozen in Siberia can still reproduce (theguardian.com)
203 points by thedday 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments

There have been dormant spores found in amber over 20 million years old that have been revived.


Isn’t that the exact plot of John Carpenter's “The Thing”?

1938 -- Who Goes There? is a science fiction novella by John W. Campbell Jr. In the story, scientists discover 20 Million year old space craft in Antarctica. They accidentally thaw the alien pilot who can kill and take on the personality of its victims. People are dying; no one trusts anyone, etc.

1951 -- The Thing From Another World, directed by Christian Nyby, is a sci-fi film in which scientists go to North Pole to investigate a UFO, find crashed craft and frozen alien. They take alien back to base and unintentionally let it thaw. (see above)

1982 -- The Thing a film directed by John Carpenter. Same basic story as above (but as in the original, the plot takes place in Antartica).

2011 -- The Thing a film directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Same basic story again, but it is the prequel to the 1982 version.

If you haven't read it, Peter Watts wrote "The Things" from the alien's perspective, and it's really good: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/

I read this without paying any attention to who the author was, then read Blindsight a few years later, then saw this again a few months ago, noticed who the author was, and was like "oh, of course that was Peter Watts, that makes complete sense".

Peter Watts also wrote the Rifters series, which is about an ancient virus that gets dug up deep beneath the sea.


They dig it up; they cart it back to their base. Somehow it gets thawed; it wakes up, probably not in the best of moods...

That's the later 2011 prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter film.

In the 1982 film, it's a dog-clone-thing that brings the chaos from the Norwegian base to the US one.

Though the plot of the 1982 film was pretty clear that the Norwegians dug up an alien space craft, and a smaller "human sized" dig that was presumed to be its occupant.

Yes...they do go to the Norwegian base, and find the remains of the alien that the Norwegians had burned, the cut-out slab of ice, and the spaceship. While some of both movies didn't age very well, I still like both of them and watch them in sequence every now and then.

Good question. We have to investigate it. Let's separate. You go into that dark cave, I go by myself into the dark attic. I suggest to wear heels so we cannot run.

I've got a broken torch which is prone to failure at the most inopportune moment, can I come?

The Expanse is a variation on that too.

Stargate too, where they dig up an 'ancient'

They are all, to some extent, a retelling of Pandora's Box

Like how any book / tv show / movie is, to some extent, a retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

I was thinking it was more like "Life found a way!"

kinda makes you wonder about the panspermia theories when space is mostly cold, dry, oxygen deprived and full of radiation. perhaps some more advanced humans elsewhere worked out how to bind DNA to these creatures and shot them at their nearest habitable exoplanet

Shot them? Asteroid impacts which eject rocks into space are common enough on geological timespans that the question really is "can it happen? did it happen? how much of it happened?"

We should encode a message in their DNA that can't be evolved out. Think chirality. Something fundamental.

Maybe one day they'll evolve and get the message.

That's neat! Ideas are seldom unique, and this one goes way back.


The closest analog I was thinking of was Carl Sagan's Contact, but instead of DNA, the message was put in an even more fundamental place (seriously, if you haven't read the book, don't spoil it for yourself - it's a fantastic read and go read it).


What would that accomplish? Marking other planets like a dog does with its pee? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGjekRgtxSA

I guess to see if something “grows” on that planet and then know if it’s worth to settle over… (Face Screaming in Fear Emoji)

Life is the most wonderful gift.

It is amazing and frightening at the same time. The other day I was reading somewhere that micro organisms on the surface of spacecraft survived on the cleaning liquid that is designed to kill them.

It's because with continued use, the cleaning liquid will continue selecting for strands that will survive.

But it's not like they take old spacecraft sterilized with these solutions, bring them back, and try the liquid again?

Yes, I'm sure there is some kind of selection, but it should be more of a one-shot affair, not a continous cycle, like how it with anti-biotics and resistant strains.

It raises a question is what else is lurking there deeply frozen?

probably something something dreaming.

ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn?

Pretty sure we need to look under the ocean for him. Maybe the old ones set up some Shoggoth on the north pole as well as the south?

now you're speaking my language!


Lets just open some wine and see if we can get back into it...

Ah, got it wrong. :)


"What could go wrong?"

What could go wrong with what? They "just" found some units in permafrost and woke them up.

>They’ve also existed for at least 35m years – and can be found today in freshwater lakes, ponds, streams and moist terrestrial habitats such as moss, lichen, tree bark and soil.

They haven't found a new specie, they found frozen units


Frozen units which skipped the last 24k years of evolution. Even if that species exists today, "what could go wrong" could include some small behaviour change which current environment can't counteract.

I always wonder about this while watching movies like Jurassic Park. How could a T-Rex even survive in the current environment after skipping millions of years of evolution. Were they even breathing the same air?

No iirc the air back then had way more oxygen and way more carbon dioxide which allowed for a warmer climate and the animals/plants to grow larger. Same with the ancient giant insects, their bodies would not allow them to survive today on such little oxygen which is why insects are all tiny today.

It's thawing out with or without people being there, it's just a matter of time. Do you really think ex-permafrost shouldn't be studied? Hopefully with pandemic still ongoing there will be more precautions, that's all.

> They’ve also existed for at least 35m years – and can be found today in freshwater lakes, ponds, streams and moist terrestrial habitats such as moss, lichen, tree bark and soil.

Imagine how they’d feel about humans coming in and messing stuff up.

How do they know that the sample wasn't contaminated?

The paper^[1] discusses metagenomic information that suggests the results are not the subject of contamination:

> As only one pair of reads was found in the metagenome, the analyzed fragment was covered just once, necessarily capturing one gene variant. These results strongly suggest that the isolate originated from the permafrost layer and not sample contamination

1. https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(21)...

I still are worried by the possibility of a much more modern organism falling into a crevice and ending in a much deeper layer than its real time would grant. We need more answers here.

Usually they're testing the ice it's frozen in to determine the age. I think it's the CO2 ratio or something similar trapped in bubbles. So if something fell in, it's going to be frozen in modern ice with modern gas ratios.

let alone reproduction, wonder if these organisms would even survive much longer if they are brought back to life some how, because they will be suddenly exposed to other organisms which have evolved during these last 24000 years. wonder if they are immune to the environment that has changed a lot in that time period.

It can go either way as we've discovered a few times by importing animals to Australia. There may be no natural predators attaching to that kind of organism, allowing it to thrive.

We are digging ever deeper for life that we can extinct.

Or we dig until we find life than can extinct us:

>Smilla's Sense of Snow

Sounds like a very good idea.

Imagine waiting 24,000 years for round #2!

So you're saying I've still got a chance?

Possibly worsening the Zoonotic viruses issue we're already experiencing?

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