Here I see this sentence:

The revived nematodes were found in permafrost some 130 feet underground near the Kolyma river in eastern Russia. Researchers collected samples of the permafrost in the early 2000s and kept them frozen. Reanimation of the nematodes was first described in a 2018 paper in the journal Doklady Biological Sciences. Researchers said they placed the frozen nematodes in petri dishes with a nutrient solution and kept them at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit for several weeks. Some nematodes awakened and started reproducing. Carbon dating determined permafrost the nematodes were found in was 30,000-40,000 years old, the paper said. Biologists said at the time that the samples could have been contaminated.

However I'm quite confused about the phrase at the time. Since the word that is after it, it seems the biologist are speaking 30,000 ys ago, which is absurd. How to explain that?

  • That belongs with said. The biologists said it at the time that they were doing the experiments. (I can't read the article without a subscription, so I don't know exactly what time is being referred to.) Oct 1, 2023 at 13:31
  • @KateBunting I've enclosed more contexts. Yet I doubt that the biologists are saying these while doing the actual experiment, and the time should be later than that, as far as I believe. Oct 1, 2023 at 14:20
  • at the time = then, timeframe
    – Lambie
    Oct 1, 2023 at 16:29
  • at the time could refer to the time of the exhumation from the permafrost, to the time of the reanimation, to the time when the paper came out and responses to it came in; we can't really say, as there's not enough context. Oct 2, 2023 at 0:55

1 Answer 1


The report on the experiments in which frozen nematodes came back to life was published in 2018. At the time of that publication, or perhaps in discussions soon afterwards, biologists admitted that the samples could have been contaminated (presumably with modern nematode eggs).

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