Scientist Natalia Iakovenko from the excellent EVA research team was part of the team that discovered and subsequently examined a 24,000-year-old living multicellular organism living in soil. A major study in the journal Current Biology then provides evidence that bdelloid rotifers can survive frozen indefinitely. This finding attracted attention of BBC, The New Your Times, The Guardian or Czech Television.
"The crucial thing is that in the case of bdelloid rotifers, we are talking about a multicellular organism that has a nervous, digestive and excretory system. From this point of view, it is unique that such an old organism has been found and further multiplied," explains Natalia Iakovenko from the CULS Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology.
The organisms themselves were discovered by a Russian research team in northeastern Siberia in a melting permafrost 3.5 meters below the surface. The work of a researcher from the CULS was then used in the laboratory study of the organism. "First of all, it was necessary to confirm which animal species it belongs to. Here it was found that it is a relative of the modern species A. vaga, and that it is essentially a living fossil. Furthermore, it was necessary to confirm that the found bdelloid rotifer is able to survive freezing, because not all types of rotifers have this property, "explains Natalia Iakovenko. It was with the help of a researcher from the CULS that a protocol was developed, which was used to verify the ability of found bdelloid rotifer to freeze not only after drying, but also in an active state during movement and feeding. Subsequently, this protocol was tested in CULS laboratories and in the Russian Laboratory of Soil Cryology in Pushchino. Sufficient evidence has been gathered to publish groundbreaking study in Current Biology.
This research is also important in that it raises a number of other research questions that will be further explored by researchers. One of the most important is certainly what mechanism bdelloid rotifers use for survival in the frozen state. "Obviously, the mechanism of “freezing” of bdelloid rotifers is really very strong, when it has been working for thousands of years and it is not weakened. We do not yet know what substances allow leeches to survive for such a long time. Natalia Iakovenko adds that bdelloid rotifers can be cultivated relatively easily in laboratories. Consequently, it should not be problematic to extract specific substances and think about their further use for practical purposes. Another interesting aspect of bdelloid rotifers is their reproductive ability. Thanks to parthenogenesis, which allows the development of a new individual from an unfertilized egg, bdelloid rotifers have the ability to quickly create an entire population from a single individual. This can also help to reproduce these creatures in laboratories.