Scientists Resurrect a 32,000-Year-Old Plant From Siberian Permafrost

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A team of scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institutes of Cell Biophysics and Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science successfully resurrected a blooming plant from a 32,000-year-old fruit buried in Siberian permafrost.

Flowering plants of Silene stenophylla. (Photo: S. Yashina et al, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2012, Figure 3)

The scientists detail how they produced viable Silene stenophylla plants from Late Pleistocene fruit tissue using in vitro tissue culture and clonal micropropagation techniques in a paper published on Feb. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The prehistoric seed pods were discovered as part of a wider investigation of old ground squirrel hibernation shelters in Siberian ice deposits. The food sources of the squirrels had been caught and stored in the burrows, resulting in a plethora of biological data. The fruit of Silene stenophylla dates back to around 32,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era. They issued a challenge to the Russian Academy of Scientists’ researchers. Previously, the oldest regenerated plant was a 2,000-year-old Judean date palm.

The Russian researchers initially attempted to utilize ripe seeds from fruit pods. However, these seeds were unable to produce a plant. The scientists then experimented using placental tissue derived from immature seeds. 36 plants were grown from the old material using cloning techniques. While they resembled the contemporary Silene stenophylla that still thrives in the region, the petals were wider apart than in the modern form when the plants flowered. Surprisingly, the ancient plants produced seeds that produced new plants 100% of the time—a higher rate than the current type.

These 32,000-year-old plants might hold the key to revealing further permafrost mysteries.

Scientists in Russia have revived a 32,000-year-old plant from the tundra of Siberia.

The Silene stenophylla plant fruiting. (Photo: S. Yashina et al, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2012, Figure 2)

The scientists produced 36 plants using cloning techniques and immature seed placental tissue.

The immature fruit of Silene stenophylla which was discovered in the permafrost. (Photo: S. Yashina et al, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2012, Figure 4)

The ancient plants resembled current varieties, but with somewhat bigger and more widely spread petals.

Cloning the Silene stenophylla from the discovered fruit placenta cells. (Photo: S. Yashina et al, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2012, Figure 5)

H/t: [Earthly Mission]

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