Digging up salt in the middle of the desert usually yields a pretty boring find. As in, lots of salt. But a team of scientists in Death Valley hauled up a lot more than that – perfectly preserved, millennia-old life.
Luckily, the lifeforms came in peace – though it’s hard not to when you’re a bacterium trapped in a salt crystal. “It’s permanently sealed inside the salt, like little time capsules,” said explained Professor Tim Lowenstein of Binghamton University.
The bacteria was found in a sort of suspended animation – not moving, not reproducing – just sort of… sitting there. For over 30,000 years, which makes them one of the oldest forms of life ever discovered on Earth. Their secret to survival? Algae, and lots of it. Enough food to keep them running – in sleep mode – for all these years. And most incredibly, once they were thawed out a bit, the bacteria started to reproduce again after being removed from their crystal cells. Tenacity! [LiveScience]