The PNAS have published results found by a Russian group of biologists to regenerate the tissue of a white flowered plant of an ancient ancestor to the white Campion flower, found in the Siberian Tundra. The fruit was found in burrow of an ancient squirrel, 125 underground, kept at a frosty 7c for the last ~32,000 years, according to radiocarbon dating.
The Arctic ground squirrel's burrow, with ground cover swept over with Arctic frosts and the ice ages creating a seal so that no water could get in created a natural cryobank for the collection of fruits and seeds the animal would store in there, keeping it at a nice 7 degrees Celsius under 125 feet of earth. The fruiting tissue withstood this temperature due to high levels of sucrose and phenols acting as antifreeze. This is the oldest plant to be regenerated from an ancient tissue! Before this, a date palm from Masada, Israel had success, aged 2000 years.
The plant has been able to blossom again due to a treatment of growth hormones to kick-start cell division, followed by courses of in vitro culture and clonal micro propagation. This has helped the ancient plant to give life, producing white flowers, a fruiting body and a set of viable seeds within. This is the first time ancient plant resurrection has been experimented on through tissue culturing – previous attempts have been through seed germination.
Some studies in the field of Ancient DNA has previously been discredited for misleading claims of retrieving dinosaur DNA but the reconstitution of the Neanderthal Genome has pushed the field into more promising and recognised territory in the new sciences to be explored. These findings from Russian biologists give momentum to further research in Ancient DNA of plants; can help give comparative studies of evolution from the growth of the modern variant of S. stenophylla and its ancestor. But there have been, in the past, cases where similar findings have been proven false, so the findings are being cautiously reviewed and though they give hope and inspire more work, more work must be done to strengthen these experiments as facts on which to base more science. This is still the most reliable experiment on on such an aged plant, provided the carbon date is correct..
|Seeds of the Silene stenophylla photographed by a microscope at 16-fold zoom.|
Proven to be correct, the findings of this Russian group of biologists can be the basis of work for geneticists in the explorative field of Ancient DNA, and researchers of evolutionary biology around the world. These findings give hope to the idea that as the permafrost continues to melt, plants that have not grown on this planet since before an ice age may be defrosted and germinate, and that's pretty exciting.
Ravilious, K 2012, 'Plant blooms after 30,000 years in permafrost', New Scientist issue 2853, viewed 13 March 2012 from http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21498-plant-blooms-after-30000-years-in-permafrost.html
Sinyakov, D 2012 ‘Russian lab grows plants from 30,000 year old seeds found in permafrost”MSNbc photoblog February 24, retrieved 6 March 2012 from http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/24/10499652-russian-lab-grows-plants-from-30000-year-old-seeds-found-in-permafrost
Wade, N 2012, 'Dead for 32,000 Years, an Arctic Plant is Revived', The New York Times, 20 February, viewed 6 March 2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/science/new-life-from-an-arctic-flower-that-died-32000-years-ago.html
Yashina, S, Gubin, S, Maksimovich, S, Yashina, A, Gakhova, E & Gilichinsky, D 2012, 'Regeneration of whole fertile plants from 30,000-y-old plant tissue buried in Siberian permafrost', PNAS Early Edition, viewed 6 March 2012 from http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/28/1118386109.abstract