Monday, February 20, 2012

An Ancient Plant Resurrected

Sometime between 31,500 – 32,100 years-ago in the Late Pleistocene, small arctic creatures collected fruit and seeds storing them in soccer ball size underground chambers. These “pantries” were first lined with hay and then animal fur before depositing the fruit and seeds. Some of these burrows became buried in ice deposits along a Siberian River. Under the ice’s pressure, the soil became hard as cement, making the chambers fully isolated from the surface with the frozen ground protecting its valuable contains. Russian scientists have unearthed burrows located 125 feet below the present surface. Their contents had a temperature of -7° that had never thawed. Using the tissues from the immature fruits, they cultivated them in a nutrient rich mixture. Surprisingly small weedy plants appeared. The plants, Silene stenophylla, grow so well they produced lacy white flowers. When fertilized the ancient plants fruited producing viable seeds. This proved that permafrost serves as a natural depository for ancient life forms. It also proved that viable material can survive much longer than thought. Further studies may be able to produce other ancient life and their genetic codes. Silene stenophylla is the oldest plant ever to be resurrected. It looks very similar to a modern version which grows in the same area of northeastern Siberia. This study was made by the Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences and published on Feb. 20th in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Photo credit: Yashine et al/PNAS

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