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.
The fruits were buried about 125 feet in undisturbed, never thawed permafrost sediments, nestled at roughly 19.4 degrees F (-7 C). Radiocarbon dating showed the fruits were 31,800 years old, give or take about 300 years. Seeds are incredible things, storing the embryo of a new plant and encasing it in protective material until conditions are right for it to germinate.
Scientists led by David Gilichinsky at the Russian Academy of Sciences worked with three of these fruits and took placental tissue samples. They fed the tissue cultures a cocktail of nutrients to induce root growth, and once the plants were rooted, they were transplanted into pots in a greenhouse. Just as they were supposed to, plants grew, developed flowers and fruits, and went to seed. (Gilichinksy died a few days ago, the BBC reported.)
Gilichinsky and colleagues also grew modern-day narrow-leafed Campion as a control, and noticed some key differences among the two generations — the Pleistocene version put out twice as many buds, but the modern version put out roots faster.
To ensure the ancient plants' own new seeds were viable, the team artificially pollinated the flowers and germinated the resulting seeds. Get this: The seeds from the ancient plants fared even better than the modern ones. The regenerated ancient plants had a 100 percent germination rate, while the control plants had an 86 to 90 percent rate. The research suggests that old age and ice would not have prevent these plants from flowering again someday — if anything, it would be the radioactive cycle of the planet itself. Like anything on Earth, the plants were exposed to low levels of gamma radiation from the radioactive decay of elements in the crust. Over 30,000 years, that adds up to a fair amount of gamma radiation. The scientists calculated that the fruits got a dose of 0.07 kGy of gamma radiation, and they say this is now the maximal dose after which tissues will remain viable and seeds will still germinate. If someone finds a plant older than 30,000 years, maybe that number will go up.
All of this is interesting not just because it's amazing to regenerate a Pleistocene plant, which of course it is, but because the permafrost may be an important new gene pool. Other ancient squirrel burrows have been found in the Yukon territory and in Alaska. That's interesting for pure research, but also because of what may happen as the planet warms and more permafrost regions thaw. Organisms will be released from their long, cold sleep, and these ancient life forms could become part of modern ecosystems, affecting modern phenotypes and changing the landscape.
"We consider it essential to continue permafrost studies in
search of an ancient genetic pool, that of preexisting life, which hypothetically has long since vanished from the Earth's surface," the authors write.
The paper was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Will this plant taste good in an olive and vinegar salad?
Science sees no further than what it can sense.
Religion sees beyond the senses.
Wow, 30,000 year old seeds that sprout. First I read online about and grew a plant that moved its leaves and lowered its branches like an animal- search TickleMe Plant. Now I better save my garden seeds in the freezer!
I found a direct link to see the educational videos of a TickleMe Plant at www.ticklemeplant.com
I don't believe anyone is even remotely interested in your spew about magical beings and so called "enlightenment". This is a science based online magazine, not a billboard for religious advertisements and opinions.
I wonder what types of pollen will result from such a plant and how that can affect other plants, bees, allergies. I also wonder what medicines can be derived from such a discovery. Fascinating actually.
You noted that (Gilichinksy died a few days ago, the BBC reported.)
What did he die of?? I ask because...is there a chance that a 30,000 old virus might have hitched a ride with the Fruit and became air borne and killed this guy???
I know it's out there...but, one needs to think about going after these ancient plants...they may have something that we don't want
Wow! Little tiny cave squirrels, wearing little furs and carrying small clubs. Dragging their knuckles from one Pleistocene plant to another.
"That’s interesting for pure research, but also because of what may happen as the planet warms and more permafrost regions thaw."
The idea that our planet is warming is far from proven. The recent revalations of profound dishonesty on the part of those claiming that it is should give anyone paying attention serious doubts about the veracity of such claims.
I never meant to imply that i was 'special' or that i had some higher authority above anyone. Im simply stating my own opinion about religious related comments that are entirely meant to take a stab at a scientific article just because the commenter may or may not agree with it. I admit, im not a religious man myself but i respect people that are. I do not have full respect for those that try to make their beliefs as abundent as possible, which in this situation includes posting a comment that deliberately insults the research and success of hard working scientists.
And to what you said about the plant having use for medical purposes, i admire the thought. I would like to think that there are some plants unexposed to us that may prove to help cure cancer or other severe conditions.
Iwanttobelieve, it is obvious that you do not believe. Please tell me with specificity what about this is untrue or "spewing" about this statement:
Science sees no further than what it can sense.
Religion sees beyond the senses.
Genuine science only deals in what it can sense and begin to measure, which is part of the reason that the AMA types refuse to acknowledge the benefits of acupuncture. Religion deals with the spiritual realm, which by our current technology, can not be sensed or measured in the scientific sense. Your initial comment displays your condescending arrogance towards that which you do not understand. It also displays your own inadequacies and lack of genuine self esteem.
I wonder what kind of fruit the plant produces? Is it edible and nutritious for humans or animals? What unique properties and chemical compounds do the fruit, leaves, flowers and roots possess that may be beneficial to humans?
I do not see where self esteem plays into my comment. I am rather confident in what i have to say. But i do see the mistake i made when interpreting Robot's comment. I accept that you have been able to point out my faults when i could not. As far as arguments go, you clearly fly on a higher plane than i do =P Forgive me for my arrogance.
Now speaking of popular science, have you read any articles online about the neutrino particle? I found it rather interesting that it disproved Einstein's theory of relativity, but also that it could carry the potential to help develop means of faster-than-light travel. Which than could lead to so many different things. I've been trying to find someone with any different suggestions and/or opinions on it. I would hope that, even as extreme as it sounds, light speed travel could be achievable, and that if we could harness the power of an atom we could also do the same with the neutrino.
The campion species is a small flowering plant. The modern members of the species grow at the edges of fields and where there are low laying schrubs. It is grown in gardens primarily for the beauty of its flowers however the plant was used herbally as a treatment for scorpion stings (It actually has absolutely no benefit in that regard )