03 April 2012

Ice Age flower

Tim Anderson, a member of the Veld & Flora editorial committee, sent me this fascinating information about a 30 000 year old plant. An Ice Age squirrel's burrow containing fruit and seeds that had been preserved in the Siberian permafrost for over 30 000 years enabled a team of Russian scientists to resurrect an entire plant of Silene stenophylla from a few cells in the frozen fruit, making it the oldest plant ever to be regenerated. Svetlana Yashina of the Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who led the regeneration effort, said the revived plant, which has produced viable seeds itself, looks very similar to its modern version, which still grows in the same area in north-eastern Siberia, but differs in certain features.
The Russian research team recovered the fruit after investigating dozens of fossil burrows hidden in ice deposits on the right bank of the lower Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia, the sediments dating back 30 000-32 000 years. "The squirrels dug the frozen ground to build their burrows, which are about the size of a soccer ball, putting in hay first and then animal fur for a perfect storage chamber," said Stanislav Gubin, one of the authors of the study, who spent years rummaging through the area for squirrel burrows. "It's a natural cryobank."
The burrows were located 125 feet (38 meters) below the present surface in layers containing bones of large mammals, such as mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, bison, horse and deer.
What's next? The resurrection of Ice Age mammals?

Read the articles in the New York Times and in the BBC News.

Photo: The regenerated Silene stenophylla photographed by Vladimir Isachenkov (AP Photo/HO, the Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences).

1 comment:

garden girl said...

Amazing!! I have Silene?? growing in my garden