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The Rip Van Winkle Bug: A Microbe Is Resurrected After 120,000 Years

After 120,000 years of slumbering in a Greenland glacier beneath almost two miles of ice, an ultra-small bacteria has been resurrected by the patient efforts of scientists. After incubating the bacteria for almost a year in water that was just above freezing temperature, colonies of the tiny purple-brown bacteria began to grow in a petri dish. Researchers say the bacteria’s resilience provides clues to how life can survive in hostile environments like the Arctic–and maybe even other planets.

The Herminiimonas glaciei bug is not the oldest to ever be resurrected, but it’s the first “ultramicrobacteria” to be revived. Ultramicrobacteria, tiny even by bacterial standards, are about 10 to 50 times smaller than the common human intestinal microbe E. coli. Their diminutive size could give the bacteria a survival advantage over other microorganisms. H. glaciei, for example, is thought to have survived in thin capillaries of nutrient-rich water in the Greenland glacier that would have been too tight a fit for larger bacteria [National Geographic News].
 
 

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