Ancient Frozen Microbes Return To Life


The DNA of ancient microorganisms frozen in glaciers has the ability to return to life as the glaciers melt. A paper published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by scientists who melted five samples of ice ranging in age from 100,000 to 8 million years old found many microorganisms trapped inside. The younger ice contained more lifeforms, which grew fast when cultured, doubling every couple of days. By contrast, the microorganisms from the oldest ice samples grew slowly, doubling only every 70 days. The researchers calculated a DNA half-life of 1.1 million years in Antarctic ice, and warned that as warming melts the glaciers, the revived DNA could fuel a new wave of bacterial evolution. . . Blimey. Will nature’s cryogenesis be the end of us? JULIA WHITTY

Fact:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now
  • Julia Whitty is the environmental correspondent for Mother Jones. Her latest book is Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. For more of her stories, click here.