A tiny bacterium has been coaxed back to life after spending 120,000 years buried three kilometres deep in the Greenland ice sheet.
Officially named Herminiimonas glaciei, the bug consists of rods just 0.9 micrometres long and 0.4 micrometres in diameter, about 10 to 50 times smaller than the well-known bacterium, Escherichia coli.
Researchers in the team coaxed it back to life by keeping it at 2 °C for 7 months, then at 5 °C for a further four-and-a-half months, after which they saw colonies of very small purplish-brown bacteria.
They speculate it can survive in minute veins in the ice, scavenging sparse nutrients that were buried along with the ice. It also has extensive tail-like flagella to help it manoeuvre through the veins to find food.