Hello, summer! Not usually my most favorite season, I find that I am really looking forward to this one.  All my friends are posting graduation photos of their kids, school is on the verge of letting out, and, thanks to vaccination rates on the rise, families are able to gather again. There is hope.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope, actually. About what it means to emerge from over a year of isolation into a season of gatherings and get-togethers. I’ve been thinking about what it means to restart a life after suspended animation and how out of practice I am at simply being social.

Lo and behold, in the midst of all this pondering, a survivor has arrived: All hail the bdelloid rotifers!

Have you heard about these little guys? They’re kind of amazing.

If you cast your mind back to high school science, you’ll likely recall that rotifers are microscopic organisms that use little wheel-like structures to propel themselves through water. They are an important part of freshwater ecosystems across the world and the bdelloids are one type of them.

Bdelloid rotifers are well known for their ability to survive in harsh climates, but recently, scientists discovered that their abilities to survive are much, much more exhaustive than previously thought. To be precise, one little creature survived for 24,000 years.

Can you imagine? This living creature somehow managed to get itself stuck in a layer of permafrost, in the area now known as Siberia, and there it stayed for 24,000 years until scientists unearthed it with a drilling rig.

Here’s the thing: finding an intact organism that old would be amazing enough, but get this – the organism, once warmed, came back to life, fed and even reproduced. In a wild and clear demonstration that the drive to maintain your own species is strong, the little creature created more little creatures using asexual cell division.

Astoundingly enough, the bdelloid rotifer is not the only living thing that has been revived after significant time in the deep freeze. According to an article by CNN, “stems of Antarctic moss were successfully regrown from a 1,000-year-old sample that had been covered by ice for about 400 years, and a living campion flower was regenerated from seed tissue, likely stored by an Arctic squirrel, that had been preserved in 32,000-year-old permafrost. Simple worms, called nematodes, were revived from the permafrost from two places in northeastern Siberia, in sediments that were more than 30,000 years old.”


This discovery throws a lot of what we thought we understood about life’s limitations into doubt. Fantasy and science fiction fans, take note.

Granted, reviving a complex multi-celled organism is another matter altogether. We are not exactly talking about a saber-toothed tiger or a mammoth coming to and ambling off. Still, it’s impressive.

It makes me think about our own ability to go dormant and revive.

I will confess, I am not convinced we are on the other side of the pandemic. In fact, much of the world is still deeply in the virus’ grip. This humanitarian crisis is heartbreaking on its own, and likely to hold future consequences for us.

But still, the bdelloid rotifer inspires me to think that we can survive another hibernation. We are more complex creatures, true, but we, too, have what it takes to go still, and then revive and adapt to the new world in which we awaken.

I have a lot of hope for “summer,” even if it truly takes a little longer to arrive.

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