Ancient 15,000-Year-Old Viruses Found in Melting Tibetan Glaciers


2022-10-31 11:32:43



Ancient creatures are emerging from the cold storage of melting permafrost, almost like something out of a horror movie. From incredibly preserved extinct megafauna like the woolly rhino, to the 40,000-year-old remains of a giant wolf, and bacteria over 750,000 years old.

Not all of these things are dead. Centuries-old moss was able to spring back to life in the warmth of the laboratory. So too, incredibly, were tiny 42,000-year-old roundworms. These fascinating glimpses of organisms from Earth's long distant past are revealing the history of ancient ecosystems, including details of the environments in which they existed. But the melt has also created some concerns about ancient viruses coming back to haunt us.

In the study, the team was able to identify an archive of dozens of unique 15,000-years-old viruses from the Guliya ice cap of the Tibetan Plateau, and gain insights into their functions.

The studies have shown microbial communities correlate with changes in dust and ion concentrations in the atmosphere, and can also indicate climate and environmental conditions at the time.

Within these frozen records of ancient times, 6.7 kilometers (22,000 feet) above sea level in China, the researchers discovered that 28 of the 33 viruses they identified had never been seen before.