Researchers in Siberia were able to grow viable Silene stenophylla plants from 32,000-year-old seeds thanks to the work of squirrels. This incredible event, which occurred in 2012, continues to have a dramatic impact on the scientific community, and now Austrian researchers are attempting to sequence the plant’s DNA in order to determine how it was able to survive for so long.
The story begins in 2007, when a team of Russian, Hungarian, and American scientists recovered the frozen seeds. They were buried 125 feet beneath the Siberian permafrost. The discovery was made while the team was investigating the burrows of ancient squirrels. The squirrels’ burrowing techniques had perfectly sealed the fruit and seeds from the elements.
“The squirrels dug the frozen ground to build their burrows, which are about the size of a soccer ball, putting in hay first and then animal fur for a perfect storage chamber,” said Stanislav Gubin, one of the researchers who explored the burrows. “It’s a natural cryobank.”
Scientists were able to extract tissue from immature fruit and grow a Silene stenophylla five years after discovering the seeds. According to a study published by the researchers, the resulting plants bloomed flowers and were fertile. Surprisingly, these ancient plants resembled the modern version that still grows in Siberia today.
Austrian scientists are now taking things a step further by studying the DNA of these prehistoric plants. They want to map the genomes of the plants and sequence their DNA to figure out how the plants survived. Because the Russian permafrost is now thawing, they can look into the environment to see what factors helped the seeds survive.
They’re specifically looking for adaptations to extremely hot, dry, or wet conditions that could help them understand how other plants might protect themselves from climate change. “I think mankind should be thankful for every piece of knowledge that we are able to create to protect our croplands,” says Margit Laimer, a plant biotechnologist at Vienna’s University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences.
The DNA of plants grown from 32,000-year-old seeds is being sequenced by researchers.
h/t: [Sky News]
lucienne desgroseillers says
love it.. its wonderful to find treasures buried in perma,,
hazel Wilkinson says