Ancient Moss Revived: Antarctic Fauna Is Defrosted and Revived

Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 11:08 AM

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Antarctic moss has been revived after being trapped beneath the ice for more than 1,500 years was defrosted and revived by British scientists recently, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology on Monday.

British Antarctic Survey ecologist Peter Convey, a co-author in the study, said via a statement that three weeks after the moss was thawed out in an incubator it began to grow again and become noticeably greener, having initially been black and seemingly lifeless when first dug up by the scientists, the Associated Press reported.


"These mosses were basically in a very long-term deep freeze," Convey said in a statement, Britain's Independent noted. "This timescale of survival and recovery is much, much longer than anything reported for them before."

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"This experiment shows that multi-cellular organisms, plants in this case, can survive over far longer timescales than previously thought," Convey continued. "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."

The samples were reportedly acquired from Antarctica's Signy Island, with carbon testing dating them to be at least 1,530 years old.

According to Convey, except for the incubator's warmth, the only substance added to the well-aged arctic moss was distilled water.

"If they can survive in this way, then re-colonization following an ice age, once the ice retreats, would be a lot easier than migrating trans-oceanic distances from warmer regions," Convey said. "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," Convey added.

As for the possibility that the growth was not a case of regeneration from the original moss, but rather stemmed from more current moss spores clinging to the sample as it was removed from the ice, Convey said it was highly unlikely.

"We can't be certain there is no contamination, but we have very strong circumstantial evidence," Convey said, Fox News reported. "Under a microscope, you can see the new shoot growing out of the old shoot. It is very firmly connected."

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