Alive! scientists to discuss discovery of 250-million-year-old bacteria

October 31, 2000

Scientists Russell Vreeland and William Rosenzweig of West Chester University in Pennsylvania and Tim Lowenstein of the State University of New York at Binghamton will speak at the National Science Foundation (NSF) November 8 on the oldest known living organism ever found on earth. Their research is funded by NSF's Life in Extreme Environments (LExEn) program. The discovery was published in the October 19, 2000 issue of the journal Nature.

Vreeland, Rosenzweig, and Lowenstein obtained samples from a deep excavation for a waste disposal site in a southeastern New Mexico rock formation called the Permian Salado Formation. There they found salt crystals with tiny fluid inclusions that emtombed still viable saltloving bacteria. According to the researchers, the now living bacteria spent the last 250 million years in suspended animation. The bacteria "revived" by the scientists are salttolerant species of the genus Bacillus. They respond to concentrated brines, such as those in salt crystals, by forming spores, which have the ability to preserve life forms for long periods of time.

Vreeland and his colleagues will discuss their discovery and plans for the future.

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Who: Russell Vreeland, William Rosenzweig and Tim Lowenstein

What: Discovery of 250-million-year-old bacteria and an overview of past, current, and future research in this area

When: 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Where: NSF headquarters, Room 110, Arlington, Virginia (Ballston Metro stop)

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-end-
Media contact:
Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
(703)292-8070

National Science Foundation

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