On the frozen edge of the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia, in an ancient pantry harboring seeds and other stores, an Arctic ground squirrel burrowed into the dirt and buried a small, dark fruit from a flowering plant. The squirrel's prize quickly froze in the cold ground and was preserved in permafrost, waiting to grow into a fully fledged flowering plant until it was unearthed again. After 30,000 years, it finally was. Scientists in Russia have now regenerated this Pleistocene plant, transplanting it into a pot in the lab. A year later, it grew forth and bore fruit.
The specimen is distinctly different from the modern-day version of Silene stenophylla, or narrow-leafed Campion. It suggests that the permafrost is a potential new source of ancient gene pools long believed to be extinct, scientists said.
A larval fruit fly is hatched in the year 2011 and frozen while still pupating, half its body water solidified in frigid temperatures. After spending many generations in a state of suspended animation, the wee Drosophila melanogaster awakens and is allowed to grow up. One day, it wonders if it will ever be able to mate — but should it bring new larvae into this dystopian future?
A reader inquires: “Why can’t we put people into some sort of cryogenic sleep and launch them to Mars—or to an even more distant destination, like Alpha Centauri?”
By Elizabeth SvobodaPosted 08.04.2004 at 7:00 pm 0 Comments
Setting aside very real concerns such as our lack of a spacecraft with suitable size and power to launch astronauts to Mars—much less the outer planets or other stars—suspended animation lingers more in the realm of sci-fi than reality. Yet the concept remains attractive, especially for longer journeys, because astronauts in a Rip Van Winkleâ€like stupor might be protected from the serious health hazards associated with distant space travel, and they wouldn’t need food—or entertainment.