32,000-Year-Old Plant Brought Back to Life—Oldest Yet Feat may help scientists preserve seeds for the future

2/29/2012 by Mathilde

A Russian team has discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were 32,000 years old.

The team extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants, according to a new study. The plants—identical to each other but with different flower shapes from modern S. stenophylla—grew, flowered, and, after a year, created seeds of their own.

The new study suggests that permafrost could be a "depository for an ancient gene pool," a place where any number of now extinct species could be found and resurrected, experts say.

"Any insight gained on seeds which have been frozen and how to thaw them and sprout them is very valuable," said Elaine Solowey, a botanist at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel.

The Missouri Botanical Garden's Raven added that, if we can uncover the conditions that kept the seeds viable for 32,000 years, then "if you were doing it yourself, you'd be able to preserve [seeds] for longer."

 

Source: National Geographic