The rotifer world has exciting news!
A rotifer that was frozen in the permafrost for 24,000 years has been thawed out, and it has reproduced asexually. It is of the commonest kind, a bdelloid rotifer. We have bdelloid rotifers around us everywhere, even in desert dust. They are hardy little guys and form spores, much as the cuddlier tardigrades do, but not quite as durable.
I “discovered” rotifers with my first microscope, when I put a handful of leaves in water and let the jar sit in a warm place for a few days. The little “mixmasters” on their heads intrigued me.
I didn’t know what they were and couldn’t find them in a book. My biology teacher was unhelpful. I’m not sure when I learned their name. Later, I met Professor Robert Lee Wallace, who is one of the world’s experts on rotifers. He told me this morning that the rotifer world is very excited. They knew the little beasts were durable, but this is more than they expected. They will compare the old ones’ genome with the genome of bdelloid rotifers found in the same area today.
Here’s the Reuters article. The embedded video is too sensationalistic for my taste.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner
You should get naming rights:
The roaches and rotifers will battle it out after we eliminate ourselves.
Well, with the melting at the poles we should be getting all sorts of exciting things restarting! Can’t wait for all of those enemies of Godzilla to start waking up.
Antivaxxers have long claimed that vaccines, particularly HPV vaccines, can damage the ovaries and cause female infertility. That claim has been resurrected for COVID-19 vaccines. The first example relied on a dubious “similarity” between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and a placental protein. This time, it’s the lipid nanoparticles attacking the ovaries, echoing very old claims about polysorbate-80. Truly, everything old is new again.
@Jeffery: While the tardigrades look on, rubbing their cute little forelimbs together and murmuring “excellent…”
@germy: I am delighted that they almost share my name, but I became intrigued with them long before I knew that.
I wonder if this rotifer news has any relevance to the hopes of finding of extraterrestrial life, Something frozen deep beneath a planet’s surface, or floating in an atmosphere.
We’ve learned that some forms of life are way more resilient than we mammals.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
@germy: I wonder if these dimwits even understand what a vaccine is. PBS sciences was talking about how more troops were dying in the Continental Army from Small Pox than combat during the Revolution until doctors gave them the early form of the vaccine. So that’s what, over 200 years of data on vaccination?
What’s the “antiscience freak out” angle? Is it that on an earth only 6000 years old, rotifers this old can’t exist so this must be a hoax? This seems like a science story that is full of wonder with little in the way of culture wars.
Surely there was room for rotifers on Noah’s Ark!
I just want to know if rotifer DNA can also be used for the spore drive…
@Mudbrush: EVIL ORGANISMS BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD!
@germy: You know what else can damage ovaries and cause female infertility. A little thing called “death”. I guess that hasn’t occurred to them yet.
Neat, and scary. Nature, and science, are amazing.
Relatedly, as a probable counterpoint, SCOTUS decisions expected to be announced at 1000 am.
@Mudbrush: Now I want a Noah’s Ark playset that instead of the usual pairs of elephants, giraffes, and so forth has rotifers, tardigrades, nematods, mites, etc.
I can give you a heads-up on anti-science freakout due to hit in about a decade: Return of samples of Martian rocks back to Earth, with the potential for signatures of Mars life. Saw a talk yesterday by one of the Perseverance scientists and while mostly he was talking about the current status and plans for the next year or so of observations, he did touch on the sample-return issue. The phrases “welded into a canister that can survive terminal-velocity impact on Earth” and “immediately brought to a BSL-4 laboratory before opening” were part of the discussion; nobody wants to make the Andromeda Strain anything more than overwrought fiction.
(really, the precautions are to minimize contamination of the samples by Earth life, but keeping Earth organisms out and keeping Mars organisms in need much the same procedures)
@OzarkHillbilly: The Delta COVID variant appears to be especially dangerous to babies and pregnant women.
I loved looking at things under our old brass microscope. I don’t recall ever finding rotifers though. Inspired by pics in a Nat Geo article, I once broke off the stem of a flower that was swarming with aphids and the variety of ants that “herd” them. We were so lucky to grow up in a household surrounded by sciencey stuff…the microscope, a telescope, subscriptions to Scientific American and Science and Geotimes and National Geographic and most importantly parents who allowed and encouraged us to explore and learn about the world. A couple of good teachers along the way helped as well.
Thanks for making me think about all that.
@germy: Still wondering why people who are so scared of getting spike protein or foreign RNA in them are not scared of the virus. Because it does ALL that shit and more.
Ella in New Mexico
This was a really nice way to start the morning, Cheryl!
If a 24,000 year old creature can wake up after being frozen all that time and still get their game on, then I can overcome my knee arthritis and take a damn walk before work today.
Thank you little rotifer guy/gal. :-)
The rich get richer, and the spore get sporer.
@OzarkHillbilly: Covid has been found to damage the reproductive system in some cases. So pick your poison?
@Mudbrush: When I volunteered as a docent at a zoo I was told not to hint at anything suggesting the earth’s age.
@Ken: hear the Isrealies crashed on the moon and released a bunch of tardigrades! Wonder if they survived the crash.
Margaret Sullivan on Anthony Fauci:
I can’t believe that we’re more than 20 comments in and that nobody has remarked on the tags.
“Pet blogging.” That made me smile.
Now someone has.
The people who say stuff about spike protein and foreign RNA being incorporated into your genome are just repeating what they’ve heard without understanding it. Their fear of the vaccine came first, and whatever reasons they give for it are just some sciency-sounding stuff they read that validated their existing fears.
“Pet Blogging” as a label for this post intrigues me. I for one have never thought to have a pet rotifer.
On topic and worth rereading: Ed Purcell’s famous lecture on ‘Life at Low Reynolds Number’. That thing on the rotifer’s head digs through the fluid.
@NotMax: That is awesome! Also can’t tell you how many people saw the silverbacks and said in front of me “see we ain’t come from them!”
Thanks for another excellent post!
Meanwhile, Lindsay Beyerstein and Jeffrey Lewis check out the terminology being used in an ongoing antiscience freakout.
If they’re driven to a panic by melting zombie rotifers, shouldn’t they be leading the charge to combat the global warming that’s going to release the ramtunnelling hordes?
Early ancestor of tribbles!
Apparently Mars was hospitable to life before Earth and life may have come here on meteors originating from Mars asteroid “splash”.
With regards to the on-going anti-science freakout (lab-leak), seems that David Baltimore is walking back his earlier ‘smoking gun’ comments:
So not only did he massively overstate his case — a decidedly un-scientific approach — he also got the science wrong:
Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes
Speaking of science, I can’t decide who is more stupid – Gohmert or his voters and donors. To his credit, I think he comes by his stupid honestly, and genuinely believes the stupid things he utters – and white privilege has allowed him to flourish at his endeavors in the military, the judiciary and as a congressman. There’s got to be some rump group of his voters and donors, though, who support him in a cynical way and don’t believe his stupid utterances.
Good for Jeffrey Lewis for doing that poking.
Another (free) etymology tool that can be helpful (though with false positives because old articles often pick up new sidebar links/summaries) is google search with time windows. (Tools->time pulldown->custom range.)
If it hasn’t been said, “lab leak” alliterates, which might be a tell; emotionally manipulative catchphrases are often crafted this way.
[Ah somebody pointed out the alliteration in the replies to J. Lewis’s thread. Good. ]
Boring into the wood.
And just this morning I was making jokes about viri thawing out of the thawing tundra that hasn’t seen a human since … before we were human.
24,000 years old? Doesn’t look a day over 20,000
Should we be concerned that these rotifer thingies will cross-breed with cicada, producing a flying abomination that stuns its prey with sound before burrowing into the brain with its tentacle-fringed mouth? Asking for a member of Congress.
This reminds me of an old X-Files episode where they found an “alien” organism in an ice core sample. They used a sea urchin embryo for the clip of the alien organism, at which I laughed out loud.
Rotifers are cool. I first saw one under a microscope in 7th grade when our science teacher had us look at samples of water from the pond and creek close to school. Also the first time I saw spirogyra. I remember how cool it was to see the chloroplasts moving. It made me appreciate the use of chlorine in swimming pools…
Really cool! That must be what I’ve seen under my hobby microscope years ago, inside a droplet of aquarium water. Did not get to witness the vortex effect, but did see it acting like a gross wormy thing.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that sensationalistic videos of rotifers are why I come to this abode of jackals. Well, that and the naked mopping – or do I mean moping?