published Monday, March 17th, 2014

Frozen for 1,600 years, Antarctic moss revived

  • photo
    This image provided by the British Antarctic Survey shows a plant that scientists revived which was frozen beneath the Antarctic ice and seemingly lifeless since the days of Attila the Hun. The simple moss was about 1,600-year-old, black and looked dead, but when it thawed in a British laboratory incubator it grew again.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

WASHINGTON — Scientists have revived a moss plant that was frozen beneath the Antarctic ice and seemingly lifeless since the days of Attila the Hun.

Dug up from Antarctica, the simple moss was about 1,600 years old, black and looked dead. But when it was thawed in a British lab's incubator, something happened. It grew again.

British Antarctic Survey ecologist Peter Convey said the moss was visibly greening with new shoots after three weeks. He said scientists didn't do anything to make it grow except squirt it with distilled water.

Convey said this may make scientists rethink what is dead and what's not. He said this is by far the longest case of revival of a plant or animal from frozen limbo.

The study was published Monday in the journal Current Biology.

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