Locked in Siberian Ice for 30,000 Years, an Ice Age Flower Springs Back to Life
Russian Scientists Resurrect Ancient Plant
by Helen Zhang, age 14
More than 30,000 years ago, an Ice Age squirrel hid its fruits and seeds in an underground burrow. Recently, a team of scientists led by Svetlana Yashin, of the Institute of Cell Biophysics at the Russian Academy of Sciences, resurrected a flower from the fruit tissue remains of this squirrel’s hidden treasure.
This flower, the Silene stenophylla, is the oldest plant ever to be brought back to life. The sediments had been trapped in Siberian permafrost, a layer of soil that remains frozen throughout the year, and dates back about 30,000 years. Surprisingly, this ancient plant is still fertile and produces white flowers and seeds. According to Dr. Yashin, this “born-again” plant looks very similar to its modern version.
The squirrel burrows, found on the right bank of the lower Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia, contained bones of large mammals in layers cemented together and filled with ice. This would have made water infiltration impossible and at the same time created a freezing compartment that separated these ancient deposits from the Earth’s surface.
“It’s a natural cryobank,” says Stanislav Gubin, one of the authors of the study, referring to a compartment which uses very cold temperatures to store semen or other tissues.
The revival of a plant that lived tens of thousands of years ago gives hope that one day, other species may also be discovered and regenerated.
[Source: Associated Press]