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The Rebirth of a 30,000 Year Old Flower
Posted In: Other Exciting News  2/18/12
By: Yona Williams

Thanks to a squirrel from the Ice Age, researchers have uncovered a stash of fruit and seeds in his burrow that contained a puzzle piece to the past. An exciting recent headline has revealed that it is possible to coming close to bringing back to life natural items that lived thousands of years ago. In this article, you will learn more about how scientists recreated a flower that existed more than 30,000 years ago.

A team of Russian scientists used preserved fruit tissues to recreate an entire plant that thrived thousands of years ago. With the success of this project, it seems that it is now possible to revive other species from the past. The Silene stenophylla is now the oldest plant to be regenerated. It is a fertile specimen that produces white flowers and viable seeds. Permafrost is a key component in the ability to recreate a species from the past. It naturally keeps ancient life in a deposited state.

The researchers are hopeful that permafrost studies can be used to highlight an ancient genetic pool associated with pre-existing life. This is not the first time that specimens have been regenerated from older matter – Canadian researchers had previously used plants from seeds found in burrows that were significantly younger to achieve new life.

The results of the regeneration look promising. The researcher who led the project, Svetlana Yashina (of the Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences) says that the revived plant looks quite similar to the modern version of the plant, which still grows in the same region in the northeastern part of Siberia. Obviously, the plant adapts well and is rather viable. In the future, more plant species may undergo the regeneration process.

How Did the Specimen Come to Be?

After exploring dozens of fossil burrows hidden in ice deposits in northeastern Siberia, the Russian research team recovered the fruit. The specimens were positioned on the right bank of the lower Kolyma River. The sediments of the area are estimated between 30,000 and 32,000 years old.

The ice and other materials of the sediments were fused together, which prevented any water infiltration that could damage the site. Because of this, a natural frozen chamber kept the specimens separated from the surface.  In the past, the squirrels would dig into frozen ground to make their burrows, which measured about the same size as a soccer ball. First they placed hay in the space, and then cushioned their food with animal fur. In the end, a "natural cryobank" was formed.  Burrows were situated 125 feet under the surface layers where the bones of larger mammals have been found – including wooly rhinoceros, bison, horse, mammoth, and deer.

The findings of this exciting news and research were published in one of the most recent issues of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."


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