Microscopic organism has wriggled back to life after spending 24,000 years in Siberian deep freeze

A microscopic organism has wriggled back to life and reproduced after lying frozen in the vast permafrost lands of north-eastern Siberia for 24,000 years.

Russian scientists found the tiny ancient animal, called the bdelloid rotifer, in soil taken from the river Alazeya in Russia’s region of Yakutia in the far north.

The bdelloid rotifer, a multicellular organism found in freshwater habitats across the world, is known to be able to withstand extreme cold.

Previous research suggested it could survive for a decade when frozen at -20 degrees Celsius.

This new case, which was detailed in a study in the journal Current Biology, is by far the creature’s longest recorded survival period in a frozen state.

“Our report is the hardest proof as of today that multicellular animals could withstand tens of thousands of years in cryptobiosis, the state of almost completely arrested metabolism,” said Stas Malavin of the Soil Cryology Laboratory at Pushchino’s Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science.

The lab specialises in isolating microscopic organisms from the ancient permafrost in Siberia.

To collect samples, a drilling rig is used in the most remote Arctic locations.

The organism was recovered from samples taken 3.5 metres  below ground. The material was dated from between 23,960 and 24,485 years ago, the study said.

Land encased in permafrost, where the ground is frozen all year round has for years thrown up startling scientific discoveries.

Scientists earlier revived microscopic worms called nematodes from sediment in two places in northern Siberia that were dated more than 30,000 years old.