120,000-Year-Old Bacteria Awakened

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The recently revived Herminiimonas glacei 
image: The Society for General Microbiology

Disregarding the lessons of Jurrasic Park, scientists have “awaken” a strain of bacteria called Hermeniimonas glacei from a 120,000-year slumber trapped beneath a block of ice. What could go wrong?

The new bacteria species was found nearly 2 miles (3 km) beneath a Greenland glacier, where temperatures can dip well below freezing, pressure soars, and food and oxygen are scarce.

“We don’t know what state they were in,” said study team member Jean Brenchley of Pennsylvania State University. “They could’ve been dormant, or they could’ve been slowly metabolizing, but we don’t know for sure.”

Dormant would mean the bacteria were in a spore-like state in which there’s not a lot of metabolism going on, so the bacteria wouldn’t be reproducing much. It’s possible the bacteria could have been slowly metabolizing and replicating. […]

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