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More ‘Sleeping Beauty’ bacteria

Once again, bacteria have been revived from Antarctic ice said to be eight million years old.


Photo by Joe Mastroianni, National Science Foundation5326glacier
The glacial ice samples claimed to be eight million years old were collected from Antarctica’s upper Beacon Valley (not shown here). But after millions of years, even ‘in the freezer’, the microbes should long ago have disintegrated. The fact that intact microbes were ‘resuscitated’ is actually powerful evidence for what the Bible says is their actual maximum age.

Our earlier article Sleeping Beauty bacteria commented on news reports that scientists had revived ‘eight-million-year-old’ bacteria from frozen Antarctic soil.

Well, it’s happened again—that is, other researchers have similarly been able to revive bacteria found in blocks of Antarctic ice, ‘dated’ as being eight million years old.1,2,3

However, just as happened last time, other scientists are urging caution, saying that ‘as with most claims of ancient microbes being revived’, they would consider that contamination of samples with modern microbes was a distinct possibility.

One can certainly understand their scepticism, given their acceptance of the ‘age’ assigned to the ice. For bacteria and other microbes to have been sitting dormant in ice for eight million years defies reason, given that the organisms should have long ago ‘fallen apart’. The fragility of complex biological molecules (e.g. DNA) is such that, even when protected from moisture, heat and other forms of energy such as radiation, they eventually disintegrate. This is from the random effects of molecular motion and background radiation, consistent with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. After all, experts have said that there shouldn’t even be any DNA remaining after 100,000 years, let alone the complete, intact ‘machinery’ of a living cell.4

Yet one cannot ignore the persistent reports of ‘ancient’ microbes being revived from frozen water and sediments,5 and even from salt crystals said to have formed 250 million years ago!6 Note, too, that in each case, the researchers were meticulous in their efforts to prevent contamination.

So what’s the answer?

The problem is with the millions-of-years dating, which is based upon evolutionary and uniformitarian assumptions. Thus the revival of bacteria from ice, frozen sediments, and salt crystals all ‘dated’ as being millions of years old is instead powerful evidence of the truth of the Bible’s timeframe—i.e. the samples are much younger than evolutionists have claimed.

So the resuscitation of microbes is not that surprising, as the ice is no older than about 4,500 years (when the entire earth was flooded for many months, as described in Genesis 6–9).

Published: 26 September 2007


  1. Bidle, K.D., Lee, S., Marchant, D. and Falkowski, P., Fossil genes and microbes in the oldest ice on Earth, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104(33):13455–13460, 2007. Return to text.
  2. BBC News, Ancient microbes ‘revived’ in lab—Microbes locked in Antarctic ice for as much as eight million years have been ‘resuscitated’ in a laboratory, news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6935146.stm, pub. 7 August 2007; acc. 12 September 2007. Return to text.
  3. Devlin, H., Life from the oldest ice?, ScienceNOW Daily News, sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/806/2, pub. 9 August 2007, acc. 9 August 2007. Return to text.
  4. Even that estimate is a very generous allowance, as studies of the rate of breakdown of DNA in laboratory conditions indicate that ‘no DNA would remain intact much beyond 10,000 years.’ Sykes, B., The past comes alive, Nature 352(6334):381–382, 1991. Return to text.
  5. Willerslev, E. and Hansen, A.J. et al., Diverse plant and animal genetic records from Holocene and Pleistocene sediments, Science 300(5620):791–795, 2003. Return to text.
  6. Vreeland, R.H., Rosenzweig, W.D., Powers, D.W., Isolation of a 250 million-year-old halotolerant bacterium from a primary salt crystal, Nature 407(6806):897–900, 2000. Return to text.