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Scientists have revived a 250 million-year-old unit of bacteria found buried beneath the earth—the oldest living thing ever brought back to life. The organism was found in a tiny, fluid-filled bubble inside a salt crystal 1,850 feet underground, about 30 miles east of Carlsbad, N.M., when scientists pulled about 220 pounds of rock salt from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, an underground nuclear waste dump. Fifty-six crystals that showed no signs of contamination were sampled for the presence of bacteria. "Unlike amber or rocks or permafrost, salt is not an impermeable material," he said.One crystal the size of a large postage stamp contained the organism. Two other strains of bacteria were found and are being studied. If the discovery by Pennsylvania and Texas researchers holds true, it could help biologists calibrate the evolutionary clock—a timeline of how species developed over time—for the bacterium and its present-day relatives, said Russell Vreeland, a study author and biologist at Pennsylvania's West Chester University.
"Unlike amber or rocks or permafrost, salt is not an impermeable material," he said.