Thirty thousand years is a long time to hang out in any one place, much less stuck inside a tiny salt crystal. But microbiologist Brian Schubert says he found just that in a crystal from sediments in Death Valley—bacteria-like archaeans that have lived inside the tiny enclosure for all those years.
The researchers announced in a paper in Geology that they could culture the archaeans in the liquid from inside the crystal, liquid they estimate to be 22,000 to 34,000 years old. Previous studies suggesting even longer lives for microbes stuck in salt crystals (one even getting up to an insane-sounding 250 million years) have been met with skepticism. But even doubters of those studies say Schubert’s could have more validity, as the Death Valley area wouldn’t have allowed recrystallization (which would permit the liquid to escape and fresh microbes to get in) for 10,000 years at the least.