Being buried by ice would seem like a death sentence. But some moss recently freed from the deep freeze after four centuries appears to be doing just fine. That's according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ice sheets the world over are melting back and that's particularly true in the Arctic. The meltdown is picking up pace, too.
As the ice retreats it uncovers the foliage it had entombed. Researchers gathered a sample of such flora in the Canadian territory of Nunavut to gauge its condition. Carbon dating showed that the vegetation had not seen the sun since at least near the start of the Little Ice Age, some 400 years ago.
Back in the lab’s friendlier confines, the moss picked up where they’d left off—the collected sample spread out into a vibrant green blanket.
Admittedly, cryopreservation is a technique for keeping a wide variety of living cells and tissue in stasis—so the moss survival may not be such a surprise. Plus, moss are pretty hardy, with the ability to withstand extreme conditions.
Nevertheless, this resurrection after ice entombment displays the resiliency of some life as conditions change. But restoring the disappearing ice itself, well, that’s a far trickier matter.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]