29  Million year old microbes

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It is not unusual for viable microorganisms to be found in salt and coal deposits, which are allegedly up to 500 million years old. A great deal of documentation exists on the isolation and reactivation of such microbes. These microbes could well be a few thousand years old, but in no way hundreds of millions of years old. Over such a length of time, the DNA and other cell building blocks would have long since decomposed. It is inconceivable that microbes in a frozen sleeping state (Cryptobiosis), and without nourishment, could be able to regenerate and repair themselves for such a long period.

Microorganisms occur practically everywhere in nature. Due to their extreme flexible physiology, they colonise an unprecedented variety of habitats. They are found in volcanic vents, in hot springs both on the Earth’s surface and on the deep ocean floor, in the ice, in the Dead Sea and as symbionts (i.e., in the digestive tracts of higher organisms).
In recent years, however, it has not been unusual to find microbes in old salt and coal deposits. Many of these sites are attributed to the Permian (250 to 300 million years ago) or the Upper Precambrian period (up to 500 million years old).
Under the strictest security conditions, due to the danger of contamination by present-day microbes, various teams have been able, in various laboratories, to reactivate so-called ancient microbes out of their sleeping state and cultivate them (1).

 It is even disputed among advocates of a billions-of-years-old Earth whether or not these microbes are really hundreds of millions of years old. The following points of criticism are usually cited:

a) The age of the isolated microorganisms can only be indirectly determined via dating of the matrix in which they are enclosed. In this case, diffusion cannot be ruled out as a source of error.

b)  The possibility of contaminating recent microorganisms (i.e., those living today) when taking or processing samples cannot, even under the strictest laboratory conditions, be ruled out.

Normally, however, all known sources and possibilities of contamination are investigated according to the publications. Critics should cite concrete, non-checked possibilities of contamination. Across-the-board accusations of contamination lose credibility in the face of the wealth of data presented (2).

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(1) Russel H. Vreeland, William D. Rosenzweig und Dennis W. Powers, Isolation of a 250 million-year-old halotolerant bacterium from a primary salt crystal. Nature 407, 19 October 2000, pages 897–899.
(2) Harald Binder, Dornröschenschlaf bei Mikroorganismen?, Studium Integrale, October 2001, page 51 – 55, http://www.wort-und-wissen.de/index2.php?artikel=sij/sij82/sij82-1.html.

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