Lazarus Moss

mossman_cardback_artwork_fullLocated roughly equidistant between Antarctica and South America, Signy Island is one of the most remote, and least hospitable, places on Earth. Half of the island is covered in a permanent ice-cap, and the rest is covered in rocks. Few species can survive these conditions, but among those that do are an incredibly durable population of moss. Over the course of centuries, these moss can grow into large banks nearly ten feet deep. Deprived of sunlight, the plants at the center of these moss banks cease to grow. Significantly, however, they do not disintegrate. Instead, the permafrost helps maintain the structural integrity of their shoots and cells, and they remain in a state of suspended animation until something changes. Anxious to test the limits of this phenomenon, a team of polar ecologists recently sampled the core from one of these moss banks. Their sample retrieved moss that had not seen the light of day (or manifested any living function) in more than 1,500 years. Once exposed to sunlight, however, the long-dormant moss began to grow once again. Scientists have revived microbes after thousands of years (more on that another time), but this is the first time that scientists have ever been able to revive multicellular organisms after such a long time. To learn more, check out the links here, here, here, here, and here.