Ancient Frozen Moss Revived

This is a picture of an Antarctic moss that started to grow again after being frozen for as long as 1,700 years.

A 4.5-foot-long core of frozen bank containing the plant, Chorisodontium aciphyllum, was taken from the South Orkney Islands in the Southern Ocean. Samples were exposed to daily light and temperatures that reached 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

The moss regenerated from the deepest part of the core thanks to a process called cryptobiosis, a state of suspended animation that allows some organisms to live indefinitely through extreme conditions. 

British scientists reported the discovery this week in the journal Current Biology. Their finding extends the known time that organisms can remain in cryptobiosis. Previous studies had found that some plants could maintain a non-metabolic state for two decades at most. 

Read More

Life Underground: How Creatures of Mud and Dirt shape our World by Yvonne Baskin

Publisher: Island Press
Release date: June 2, 2005 
Number of Pages: 248 pages
ISBN 1-59726-003-7 (cloth : alk. paper)
1. Soil animals. 2. Burrowing animals. I. Title. QL110.B35 2005 591.75′7—dc22 

Contents:
Introduction: Opening the Black Box 1 
Where Nematodes Are Lions 14 
Of Ferns, Bears, and Slime Molds 38 
The Power of Ecosystem Engineers 58 Plowing the Seabed 80 
Microbes, Muck, and Dead Zones 100 
Fungi and the Fate of Forests 121 
Grazers, Grass, and Microbes 142 
Restoring Power to the Soil 164 
Epilogue 188 
Notes 195 
Acknowledgments 227 
Index 229 

Life Underground by Yvonne Baskin has this colored, funny, children’s book cover of bugs & grubs on top - completely orthodox and non - theoretical as it can get. It’s a book by an author whose previous forays into scientific journalism focused on invasive species and changing environments (A Plague of Rats and Rubbervines).
However I consider this particular book one of the most important theoretical and enlightening texts I’ve bumped into during these last years. I consider this introduction into the planetary underground an unintended esoteric treaty and introductory Black Diamond sutra to subterranean livelihood.
The underground has always allowed us to participate in a stratigraphical, almost geophysical visualization of culture where the high is only the most banal, flat, uninteresting and disinfected part, even if majestically visible, prominent and acceptable. The infernal positioning of the underground has always warned us to reconsider more profoundly and intimately the lower reaches of culture, its stygian dynamics and troglodyte metaphysics. But who are our hidden teachers, our purveyors of knowledge but especially these most lowly creatures, and I mean lowly in the most literal sense. We are talking about nematodes, about springtails, spores, countless bacteria and polychaete worms. Yvonne Baskin starts with a classic but startling rediscovery of Earth’s own outer spatiality contrasting it with the outer space missions of exploring Mars. The story of Soil-less Mars doesn’t make Earth automatically unique, for the sake of regaining lost reactionary terrestrial exceptionalism after the copernican de-centering work.
The cosmicity of the planetary underground and of the soil is being announced as most of the subsoil and its creatures should be considered mostly unknown and maybe unknowable. In its immediacy (just beneath our feet), this region is without comparison and even if to us it doesn’t have any dimensions being sort of creased or flat, it has incredible porosity and depth. The soil is also a biological product it’s the direct result of the activity of living organisms. Even if this might appear the most commonsense to gardeners or geologists, I think it is hard to think of it in terms of being some feature of the landscape that’s somehow designed (in biology of this word has very bad teleological connotations) by the ceaseless activity and work of billions of mouthparts, hyphe, ferments and root systems.

Darwin had his incredible immersing experiment of leaving a couple of stones in the grass for dozens of years just to demonstrate the cumulative effects of the lowliest of creatures (mainly worms) upon our planet. In time these stones actually sunk not only because of gravitational pull, but engulfed by the quantity of earth continually issued forth by bioturbators. Beside this, Darwin also explored the transformations permitted by deep time, transformations completely invisible to the naked eye.

Another very important concept and living percept from this book is the suspension of life. The fact that underground conditions can suddenly change. This allows apparent half-death to exist, the possibility of reducing ones own vital signs until better and more opportune conditions arise. Water bears have pushed this to the extreme and that is why they have become model animals for life in outer space under zero gravity. We should meditate and learn from this state of dormancy or cryptobiosis.

F U I'm a tardigrade
  • Tardigrades are commonly referred to as water bears or moss piglets. 
  • You can find these awesome little beasties pretty much anywhere. They live around the world in marine or freshwater. Look for them in mosses and such. 
  • They feed off the fluid substances of plant and animal cells.
  • Tardigrades can mess with their metabolism to survive. They can pull it down to less than a tenth of a percent of normal and reduce their body’s water storage to less than 1%. They use this hibernation/death-like state to survive in any environment and can adapt differently to any climate and terrain. This is known as Cryptobiosis.
  • We should all aspire to be tardigrades
Text
Photo
Quote
Link
Chat
Audio
Video