Frozen soils, a time safe unlike any other

PERMAFROST TREASURES AND PLAGUES (1/6) – The conditions of conservation in permafrost are exceptional. Its progressive thaw makes it possible to find the remains of animals and plants that have remained frozen there for tens or even hundreds of thousands of years.

A very cold environment, away from light and humidity, where the frozen soft tissues survive the years remaining intact: with its very special storage conditions, permafrost is a safe with unique properties. “These are conditions that are similar to what we try to produce in the laboratory to preserve old DNA”, says Régis Debruyne, paleogeneticist at the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN). And, as these frozen soils recede, they release these treasures of a world thought to be extinct, but which had literally sat there for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years. “Roughly, we can go back more than two million years, to the beginning of the last great ice ages, explains Régis Debruyne. But the most familiar permafrosts are much more recent and cover the last 120,000 years. ”

The Earth was then much less hospitable than today and immense

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