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Frozen Animal Brought Back to Life After 30 Years

Move over, cockroaches: The real champions of surviving the worst of conditions are microscopic tardigrades. Continue reading →

An animal that had been frozen for 30 years has been revived by scientists - and it then successfully reproduced.

The animal in question was a species of tardigrade, a microscopic creature sometimes referred to as a "water bear" that is perhaps the hardiest lifeform on Earth. There are over1,000 known species, all of which have eight legs and measure between 0.5 and 1.2 mm in length, and they are found more or less everywhere.

As Brian Resnick wrote recently for Vox: "Pick up a piece of moss, and you'll find tardigrades. In the soil: tardigrades. The ocean: You get it. They live on every continent, in every climate, and in every latitude. Their extreme resilience has allowed them to conquer the entire planet."

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This resilience comes from tardigrades' ability, when conditions are especially harsh, to enter a state known cryptobiosis (or anabiosis). They achieve this by expelling 95 percent or more of their water, creating proteins and sugars to protect their cells, massively reducing or even suspending their metabolism, and tucking in their heads and legs to form a pill-shaped "tun."

In tun form, tardigrades can withstand conditions from boiling water to absolute zero, and pressures six times greater than those found in the deepest part of the ocean. In 2007, the European Space Agency even launched a payload of tardigrades in tun form into space; retrieved 10 days later after the satellite returned to Earth, some of the tardigrades came back to life upon rehydration and even went on to reproduce, the first animals to survive the vacuum of space.

Even by tardigrade standards, however, the most recent example of survival skills is impressive. The water bears in question were in a moss sample that was collected in November 1983 during a Japanese research expedition to Antarctica. The moss was stored at -20 degrees C after collection. In May 2014, researchers began to thaw out the moss, teased it apart with tweezers and found two tardigrades - which they delightfully dubbed Sleeping Beauty 1 and 2 (or SB-1 and SB-2 to their friends) - in tun form.

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Recovery was steady but slow, the researchers write in the journal Cryobiology: "SB-1 first showed slight movement in its 4th pair of legs on the first day after rehydration. This progressed to twisting of the body from day 5 along with movement in its 1st and 2nd pairs of legs, but the movements remained slow. After starting to attempt to lift itself on day 6, SB-1 started to slowly crawl on the agar surface of the culture well on day 9, and started to eat the algal food provided the culture plate on day 13."

By Day 21, SB-1 even began developing eggs; it laid 19, of which 14 hatched. SB-2, alas, had by then perished. But an egg that had also been retrieved from the moss, and which the researchers called SB-3, hatched and the tardigrade that emerged laid 15 eggs of its own, seven of which hatched into healthy offspring.

The next goal that the researchers have set for themselves is to uncover the why and the how: What, for example, was the process that took place over the first week after thawing before the tardigrades began to move? "We want to unravel the mechanism for (tardigrades') long-term survival," the lead researcher told the Asahi Shimbun.

There are more than 1,000 species of tardigrades.

Scientific studies can yield results that are often unexpected, occasionally shocking and every now and again just downright weird. This slideshow is a collection of some of the strangest science to turn up in 2015. There's only one animal known to be able to survive in the extreme environment of space without any life-sustaining equipment: the hardy water bear. Also known as a tardigrade, water bears are seemingly indestructible, able to survive high doses of radiation and temperature extremes. This year, scientists also discovered its unusual DNA profile. Around one-sixth of its genomes are foreign, meaning their DNA originates from living organisms outside itself. The 6,000 foreign genes water bears acquire during their lives typically come from bacteria, but also plants, fungi and other organisms, the researchers determined.

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Tyrannosaurus rex

is a late Cretaceous predator well known today for its size and its aggression, but the famous dinosaur probably would not have been as popular if it were a salad-sucking vegetarian, like its 145-million-year-old relative,

Chilesaurus diegosuarezi

. Nicknamed "the Platypus" because of its grab bag of body parts seemingly taken from massive carnivores as well as giant herbivores,

Chilesaurus

spent its meal times snacking on ferns, araucarians and other plants common in the late Jurassic period.

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If there were a contest ranking some of the most bizarre creatures in the animal kingdom,

Acanthopleura granulata

could be a safe bet for a podium finish. This marine mollusk, a chiton or pill bug, is a creature that invests heavily on defense, but oddly, its armor is built from the same material as its eyes. In fact, the mollusk has hundreds of actual eyes that not only protect it but are sensitive enough to allow it to see a fish coming from over six feet away. Though well armored, the eyes are less protected than other parts of the chiton's body. Any eyes that are damaged can be replaced, and the mollusk's have up to 1,000 eyes at any one time.

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Hands can say a lot about who a person is and where he or she has been. But finger length gives away far more information about an individual than you might expect. The 2D:4D ratio, or the length of the index finger compared to that of the ring finger, is indicative of testosterone levels in an individual. The longer the ring finger compared to the index finger, the higher the levels of testosterone. The more testosterone an individual has, the higher the statistical likelihood that person will be promiscuous,

a finding supported by data obtained from over 1,300 British men and women

. The results don't suggest a partner is predetermined to stay or stray in a relationship, as only a slight majority of men and women in the study followed the behavioral patterns predicted by finger length.

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Located 7 billion light-years away is a ring of galaxies 5 billion light-years across that spans an area of the sky 70 times the diameter of the moon,

a massive finding by astronomers earlier this year

. What makes this discovery even more incredible is that according to cosmological models this structure shouldn't exist. Known as the "Cosmological Principle," the idea is that the universe should have an even distribution of matter at the largest scales, a form of organization backed by observations by NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and Europe's Planck space telescope. The theoretical limit for cosmic structures should be around 1.2 billion light-years across, but the ring of galaxies identified this year is nearly five times that.

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Do you know exactly what's in your pet's food? Neither do scientists who went through the trouble of conducting a DNA analysis to identify the contents of popular pet products. After publishing their findings in the journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, scientists are calling for stricter regulations on pet foods after discovering traces of DNA in meat from unspecified animal species, which turned up in 14 out of 17 tests. Additionally some products containing terms like "with beef" or "with chicken" contained anywhere from 1 to 100 percent of the specified animal's DNA within the product, suggesting deceptive marketing practices.

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Located in the Tarantula nebula some 160,000 light-years from Earth are a pair of stars locked in

one of the most extreme stellar binaries ever found

. Discovered by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, the pair, known as VFTS 352, have formed a bridge of overlapping plasma between them, and their cores are just 12 million kilometers (7.5 million miles) apart. The stars' tight relationship will get a lot closer in the future, with the pair stars either merging, which will cause a gamma-ray burst, the most powerful explosion in the known universe, or going supernova and creating a black hole.

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This strange-looking creature may not look like much of a trendsetter, but for now it holds the distinction of being

the earliest known animal to walk on all fours

. Roaming Pangaea some 260 million years ago,

Bunostegos akokanensis

looks like a cross between a rhino and a lizard and was the size of a cow. Unlike other creatures that sprawled along the land at the time, moving around using limbs extended from the sides of their bodies,

B. akokanensis

walked upright. Walking upright is a more energy-efficient means of locomotion, an important adaptation during times of resource scarcity.

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If there's one thing this year's research in the area of natural studies demonstrates, it's that many animals in prehistory evolved in a world that predated any kind of beauty standards. Look no further than

Arvinachelys golden

,

a strange, pig-nosed turtle that called modern-day Utah home 76 million years ago

. In the 250-million-year evolutionary history of turtles, no other species has had a face quite like

A. goldeni

. With a streamlined shell that left it well adapted to rivers,

A. goldeni

, was a two-foot-long reptile that lived during a time of giant. The area in which

A. goldeni

lived more closely resembled the climate of today's Louisiana bayou and was populated by tyrannosaurs, duck-billed dinosaurs, crocodilians and other Cretaceous creatures.

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NASA's Kepler telescope is a planet hunter that detects exoplanet orbits around a star, known as a transit, to find worlds beyond our solar system. Earlier this year, Kepler stumbled onto an irregularly shaped object that defied explanation. Planets are round, their mass governed by hydrostatic equilibrium, but the object orbiting KIC 8462852, a star 1,500 light-year away, wasn't. With no immediate determination of what this unusual object might be, one widely circulated article in

The Atlantic

speculated that it could be

an alien megastructure

, a remote but not impossible scenario. A much more likely explanation would suggest the object is a clump of exocomets, a scenario favored by researchers. As one astronomer told the Atlantic, an alien megastructure should be the last possible scenario considered to explain what is orbiting KIC 8462852, but it should still be investigated.

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