It's.... alive? (Or, the 830 million year wakeup call)

What are your thoughts on the story of a possible revivable lifeform being found in an ancient salt crystal?

(Is there an iNat field for ‘estimated age of organism’, and if so, how many digits are available?)

i mean, what’s the worst that could happen? ;-)


See, that’s ‘The Thing’.


NPR as a source, not a scientific powerhouse.

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True. But compared to a lot of the big media choices, it’s better than average, I would say (not that this is saying ‘a lot’!).

Suspended animation is possible, but it’s hard to believe something can stay alive for 830 million years in a bubble. Can these things just get into these rocks through cracks and such. I think doing genetic work would show that they were a form of life that doesn’t exist anymore, as evolution would have genetically diverged any modern descendants into distinct species. If they were recognizable as more modern species/genera that would show they were contaminants.


Ha-ha-ha … that’s like asking China Morning Post their opinion on democracy.

I think this conversation may be most productive if it sticks to the initial topic presented.

In terms of human health risk I think it’d be really low. Though the organism could be toxic in some way shape or form, there wasn’t really anything around similar to humans for this organism to coevolve with. It also sounds like there have been long deliberations on how this would be carried out, which will probably be done in extremely controlled environments for both safety reasons and handling of the potential organisms.

Although I’m sure we’ve all seen the 2001 movie Evolution and know how that goes (if you haven’t, don’t)…


Yes, please stick to the original question.

If ancient life is in salt, wouldn’t normal geological processes occasionally release them as continents split and merge? Not to mention drilling for oil and gas? The risk of “releasing” them seems low.

But not the first ancient bacteria thought to have been discovered. Here’s another.

But the validity of their results has been questioned–and from what I can tell, has been neither supported or refuted:

Have they been alive all this time? Well, bacterial spores don’t have any detectable metabolism and are thus in a state that is described as cryptobiotic by microbiologists. So, we wouldn’t say that they’ve been alive all this time–just viable.

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Exactly. Halite is just rock salt. There are many ancient deposits from dried-up seas, and from time to time these must encounter groundwater. If there are ancient bacterial spores viably preserved in these deposits, I think we have to accept that these are already being released into the modern environment in small amounts.

It still will be interesting to see what is discovered in this crystal, whether it is viable and how it’s related to known lineages of bacterial DNA. But I won’t be losing sleep worrying that a terrible pathogen is about to be let loose.

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