Scientists revived 100-million-year-old bacteria which are now among the oldest living beings. Credit: Jumpstory

Scientists Revive 100-Million-Year-Old Bacteria Recovered From Ocean Floor

These bacteria are among the oldest living beings ever studied by scientists.


How enduring could life on Earth truly be? The wonders of nature never cease to amaze scientists that search for answers to the most important question – how life came to be and how it evolved. Bacteria are the simplest organism on Earth and are considered to be “alive.” These single-celled microorganisms can survive in the most destructive environments and reproduce. In 2021, a Japanese scientific team reported a most incredible achievement. After collecting sediment from the seafloor more than a decade ago, scientists have revived bacteria more than 100 million years old.

The plot seems to be taken from a science fiction movie – at the bottom of the most remote part of the ocean, scientists drilled wells and found ancient sediments there, in which there were oxygen and ancient microbes. The latter seemed to be dead, but they began to develop, having received enough nutrients actively. This is the first time scientists have revived ancient organisms that lived simultaneously as dinosaurs.

Scientists Revive 100-Million-Year-Old Bacteria

This magnified image shows the 100-million-year-old bacteria as it was revived. Credit: JAMSTEC
This magnified image shows the 100-million-year-old bacteria as it was revived. Credit: JAMSTEC

Collected from the ocean floor

The study, which states that bacteria 101.5 million years old were collected from the ocean floor and then began to feed and reproduce, was published last year in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Oceanologists have collected samples of deep-sea sedimentary rocks at depth in the region of the South Pacific Gyre (it is believed that this is a lifeless zone where only bacteria live).


Scientists noticed that the rocks from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean were unusually porous. There was relatively much oxygen in them for that depth. This is how the idea arose that traces of bacteria or living microbes that have adapted to existence in conditions when there is practically no food may remain in these rocks. The study confirmed that bacteria were present even in the most ancient layers of the rock.

Oxygen in all the wells

Scientists found oxygen in all the wells, which could support life in microorganisms for millions of years. To find out if there were such ancient microbes in the samples, they incubated them and provided them with enough food. Soon they began to show signs of life, not a couple, but almost all, even the oldest. As scientists have established, the age of 99.1% of microbes dates back to at least 101.5 million years.

These microorganisms are some of Earth’s most ancient living creatures, contemporaries of the dinosaurs. But still not the most – some spores of bacteria frozen in resin were revived by scientists after they had lain in amber for 250 million years. However, these were not bacteria but spores, so they could be ignored. Scientists noted that these microbes have a low metabolic rate and reproduce more slowly than other microbes living at such a depth. The genomes of the organisms have hardly changed since the Mesozoic, so scientists will be able to understand how bacteria evolved over a hundred million years.

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Dunham, W. (2020, July 28). Scientists revive 100 million-year-old microbes from deep UNDER SEAFLOOR.
Frazer, J. (2021, March 04). 100-Million-Year-Old seafloor Sediment bacteria have been resuscitated.
Javed, S. (n.d.). 100-Million-Year-Old seafloor BACTERIA resuscitated by scientists.
Letzter, R. (2020, July 30). Sleeping microbes wake up after 100 million years buried under the seafloor.
Morono, Y., Ito, M., Hoshino, T., Terada, T., Hori, T., Ikehara, M., . . . Inagaki, F. (2020, July 28). Aerobic microbial life persists in oxic marine sediment as old as 101.5 million years.
Pennisi, E., Normile, D., Kupferschmidt, K., Duke, S., Clery, D., & Moutinho, S. (2020, July 31). Scientists pull Living microbes, possibly 100 million years old, from beneath the sea.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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