Mar 19, 2014 I Paul Seaburn

Moss Frozen for 1500 Years. . . It’s Alive!

We’ve all found wrapped-but-unlabeled steaks that have been buried in a deep, dark crevice of a freezer for an unknown number of years and have attempted to revive them to a state where they can be grilled and served with copious amounts of steak sauce. Scientists with the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Reading would scoff at this trivial effort. They dug into the Antarctic permafrost and extracted frozen moss that they determined, using carbon dating, to have been frozen for over 1500 years.

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Extracting frozen moss cores in Antarctica

The icy moss was placed in an incubator, given an ideal environment and, within a few weeks, was growing again.

Although bacteria has been frozen for long periods and revived and a giant 30,000-year-old frozen virus was thawed recently in Siberia, this is a first for a plant. Professor Peter Convey from the British Antarctic Survey explains what this means:

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 recolonization following an ice age, once the ice retreats, would be a lot easier than migrating trans-oceanic distances from warmer regions.

Convey also tackled the question on everyone’s mind:

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.

While it's not the discovery cryogenicists have been waiting for, the news that a moss frozen 1500 years ago is growing again means we can project that 1500 years from now, we’ll still have Chia pets.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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