1,500-Year-Old Moss Revived After Being Frozen for Centuries

In the movie version of this, MossMan comes back to life Encino Man-style.

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While some scientists are talking about bringing back the Wooly Mammoth, others are already reviving centuries-old plant life. Teams from the British Antarctic Survey and Reading University have thawed and revived moss that has been frozen for the past 1,500 years. Somehow, this leads to MossMan being real, right?

The team reported their findings in Current Biology this week. After more than 1,500 years frozen in permafrost, the moss was thawed and continued to grow. Last year Canadian bryophytes were thawed, revived, and showed new growth, but that was after only 400 years of being frozen.

The revived moss is a major new insight into the extremes that life on Earth can withstand and recover from. Professor Peter Convey of the British Antarctic Survey said:

This experiment shows that multi-cellular organisms, plants in this case, can survive over far longer timescales than previously thought. These mosses, a key part of the ecosystem, could survive century to millennial periods of ice advance, such as the Little Ice Age in Europe.

If they can survive in this way, then recolonisation following an ice age, once the ice retreats, would be a lot easier than migrating trans-oceanic distances from warmer regions. It also maintains diversity in an area that would otherwise be wiped clean of life by the ice advance.

Although it would be a big jump from the current finding, this does raise the possibility of complex life forms surviving even longer periods once encased in permafrost or ice.

Surely someone can revive MossMan. He’s only been on ice since the 80’s and that was only like, what, 300 years ago?

(via Eurekalert, image via Tom Woodward)

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Glen Tickle
Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.