Frozen DNA Survives After 8 Million Years

Microorganisms from Antarctica look like Martian data
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2007 9:15 PM CDT
Barne Glacier in Antarctica. According to the study, scientists were able to thaw the microorganisms in the ice and coax them back to life.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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(Newser) – Scientists have nixed the notion that glaciers are lifeless blocks of ice by thawing chunks containing Antarctic organisms and watching them successfully divide on their own, the Los Angeles Times reports. The study suggests that these microorganisms, ranging from 100,000 to 8 million years old, could yield DNA and spark an entirely new phase of bacterial evolution if warming continues to melt the glaciers.

The life forms in these "gene popsicles" bear a strong resemblance to data hauled back from Mars, scientists say, and may have landed on Earth riding a comet. But researchers are also aware that the DNA degrades, due mostly to cosmic radiation, and with a half-life of 1.1 million years, could be contaminated.