Gill discusses alleged 41,000-year-old worms in Vice article
A Vice article about the case of nematodes found in a 41,000-year-old permafrost sample quoted Jacquelyn Gill, a paleoecologist and climate scientist at the University of Maine. Some believe the nematodes, which were successfully revived in a lab, actually are 41,000 years old. Others, including Gill, are more skeptical and have suggested that the worms could have contaminated the samples in much more recent history. Gill noted the permafrost sample, not the nematodes, had been dated by the research team that published the study, and the worms could have a different origin. “Basically, we need to both 1) prove that there are nematodes in the sediment, and 2) rule out the possibility of modern contamination,” said Gill. “I’d want to sieve the sediment to look for worms or eggs, and then get enough to date the nematodes themselves. Then I’d cultivate the sediments under highly controlled conditions where I knew there was no possibility of them having been affected by modern water.” Nematodes are the most numerically abundant animals on Earth, so they could find their way into all kinds of samples, but they also are the most resilient creatures known to scientists, Vice reported. “If there’s a betting pool for animals that could survive 40,000 years being frozen, nematodes would definitely be a candidate,” said Gill.