Mammoths were found in 2012 on the Siberian island of Maly Lyakhovsky. A special find, but it didn’t stop there. Because mammoths turned out to have well-preserved turds. This gave the Dutch researchers ideas. The scientists took a small sample from the female animal and examined it for traces of the bacteria.
Turns out the permafrost (an area where the ice never completely melts) has done its job. For example, many live bacteria are found in the detritus. They have evolved so that there are now five different species of so-called actinomycetes crawling around in the Leiden lab.
“Somehow it makes sense that we could bring bacteria back to life, because permafrost is such a big freezer,” researcher Gilles van Wiesel tells Trouw. “It’s still a magical idea,” says Professor of Molecular Biotechnology at Leiden University.
Together with microbiologists from Wageningen, Amsterdam and Joze Mutual Van Wezel recently shared his findings with biologists in the rest of the world. Is he afraid that bacteria will eventually take on a life of their own, just like in Jurassic Park? “Not at all. These bacteria are no different.”
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