Scientists Revive 32,000 Year-Old Flower Buried in Permafrost
24.02.2012 - Flora & Fauna, Arctic
A team of Russian scientists has been able to revive an extinct species of flowering plant using tissue derived from a nearly 32,000 year-old fruit found buried in the permafrost of northeastern Siberia. The regenerated plant is the oldest grown from preserved plant tissue.
The team led by Svetlana Yachina and David Gilichinsky from the Institute of Cell Biophysics and the Institute of Physiochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science at the Russian Academy of Sciences extracted cells from the placenta of the immature fruit, which produces seeds. Using in vitro tissue culture and clonal micropropogation techniques, the team was able to regenerate fertile plants of Silene stenophylla - apl ant similar to the modern-day narrow-leafed campion in the family Carophyllaceae.
Once they were grown to maturity and flowered, the scientists tested the plants for sexual fertility. As S. stenophylla was allogamous, meaning it required cross fertilization to reproduce, the research team pollinated the plants using pollen from ancient and modern plants. The pollinated plants produced flowers, ripened and produced seeds. All seeds taken from the regenerated plants germinated when planted.
The seeds of the plant were found in immature fruits of the plant buried in a burrow that a species of Arctic ground squirrel (Urocitellus parryii) dug during the Pleistocene Epoch. Radiocarbon dating showed the seeds to be about 31,800 years old.
As the next oldest plant able to be regenerated from ancient preserved tissue was a 2,000 date, the reconstruction of a nearly 32,000 year-old plant is a significant achievement, although the research remains to be independently duplicated. Researchers attribute the feat to excellent preservation conditions of the fruit of the flower. The ground squirrel burrows where the fruit was stored provide excellent conditions for preserving the fruit, and the placenta of the fruit contains high levels of sucrose and phenols, which are excellent antifreeze agents.