Russians revive Ice Age flower from frozen burrow

Feb 20, 2012 By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV , Associated Press
This undated photo provided by the Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences show a Sylene stenophylla plant regenerated from tissue of fossil fruit. The plant has been regenerated from tissues found in a squirrel burrow that had been stuck in Siberian permafrost for over 30,000 years. It is the oldest plant ever to be regenerated and it is fertile, producing white flowers and viable seeds. (AP Photo/HO, the Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences) Mandatory Credit

It was an Ice Age squirrel's treasure chamber, a burrow containing fruit and seeds that had been stuck in the Siberian permafrost for over 30,000 years. From the fruit tissues, a team of Russian scientists managed to resurrect an entire plant in a pioneering experiment that paves the way for the revival of other species.

The Silene stenophylla is the oldest plant ever to be regenerated, the researchers said, and it is fertile, producing white flowers and viable seeds.

The experiment proves that permafrost serves as a natural depository for ancient life forms, said the Russian researchers, who published their findings in Tuesday's issue of of the United States.

"We consider it essential to continue permafrost studies in search of an ancient genetic pool, that of pre-existing life, which hypothetically has long since vanished from the earth's surface," the scientists said in the article.

Canadian researchers had earlier regenerated some significantly younger plants from seeds found in burrows.

Svetlana Yashina of the Institute of Cell Biophysics of the , who led the regeneration effort, said the revived plant looked very similar to its modern version, which still grows in the same area in northeastern Siberia.

"It's a very viable plant, and it adapts really well," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the Russian town of Pushchino where her lab is located.

She voiced hope the team could continue its work and regenerate more plant species.

The Russian research team recovered the fruit after investigating dozens of fossil burrows hidden in ice deposits on the right bank of the lower Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia, the sediments dating back 30,000-32,000 years.

Fruit seeds stored away by squirrels more than 30,000 years ago and found in Siberian permafrost have been regenerated into full flowering plants by scientists in Russia, a new study has revealed.

The sediments were firmly cemented together and often totally filled with ice, making any impossible - creating a natural freezing chamber fully isolated from the surface.

"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 authors of the study, who spent years rummaging through the area for squirrel burrows. "It's a natural cryobank."

The burrows were located 125 feet (38 meters) below the present surface in layers containing bones of large mammals, such as mammoth, wooly rhinoceros, bison, horse and deer.

Gubin said the study has demonstrated that tissue can survive ice conservation for tens of thousands of years, opening the way to the possible resurrection of mammals.

"If we are lucky, we can find some frozen squirrel tissue," Gubin told the AP. "And this path could lead us all the way to mammoth."

Japanese scientists are already searching in the same area for mammoth remains, but Gubin voiced hope that the Russians will be the first to find some frozen animal tissue that could be used for regeneration.

"It's our land, we will try to get them first," he said.

Explore further: Warning coloration paved the way for louder, more complex calls in certain species of poisonous frogs

More information: “Regeneration of whole fertile plants from 30,000-year-old fruit tissue buried in Siberian permafrost,” by Svetlana Yashina et al. PNAS, 2012.

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User comments : 31

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Lurker2358
1.2 / 5 (20) Feb 20, 2012
How, pray tell, is this a "good" thing?

We're already having problems of invasive species of plants, fish, and land animals destroying natural ecosystems.

Digging up stuff from ages ago only introduces further opportunity for invasive species to take hold.
Queen Kitten
3.8 / 5 (8) Feb 20, 2012
So badass I love it
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (13) Feb 20, 2012
We're already having problems of invasive species of plants, fish, and land animals destroying natural ecosystems.

Chill. These plans aren't going to take over the world. That the species isn't around anymore (or has evolved into a more adapted form) makes this resurrected plant type pretty much non-viable in the wild.
OckhamsRazor
3.6 / 5 (5) Feb 20, 2012
Chill. These plans aren't going to take over the world.


Pun intended?

Lurker, you must be from the same lot as those violently opposed to the mammoth coming back. If you were to bring back a caveman and release him on his own into a big city, what do you think would happen? Of course they would have to shelter and nurture these plants for their own benefit as well as ours. I'm certain these scientists already have a firm grasp on the consequences of introducing foreign species.
Callippo
1 / 5 (10) Feb 20, 2012
This story is suspicious, if we consider, when poppy seeds are kept at minus 7 degrees Celsius (the temperature the Russians reported for the campions) after only 160 years just 2 percent of the seeds will be able to germinate.
kochevnik
2.9 / 5 (12) Feb 20, 2012
Digging up stuff from ages ago only introduces further opportunity for invasive species to take hold.
Yes America will be attacked with prehistoric flowers. Call your homo security, once they stop shooting each-other.
PosterusNeticus
3.7 / 5 (9) Feb 20, 2012
This story is suspicious, if we consider, when poppy seeds are kept at minus 7 degrees Celsius (the temperature the Russians reported for the campions) after only 160 years just 2 percent of the seeds will be able to germinate.


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault stores its seeds at -18C. Instead of wasting your time typing up yet more global science conspiracy nonsense, you could have just Googled that for yourself.

"Suspicious", indeed. LOL
Sinister1811
1.9 / 5 (14) Feb 20, 2012
Wow, that is so awesome. :)
Shabs42
5 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2012
Chill. These plans aren't going to take over the world. That the species isn't around anymore (or has evolved into a more adapted form) makes this resurrected plant type pretty much non-viable in the wild.


Not necessarily. They could have been out competed by another species which has since gone extinct itself. I remember one experiment where scientists forced yeast to evolve by changing the environment they were in. Early strains were able to replace later strains when the environment changed to match that the early strain evolved in.

As a crappy and simplified example, if this species thrived when the average temperature was 60 degrees and went extinct when the temperature dropped to 50, it could thrive again if the average temperature is now back to 60.

I'm not too worried about it, but the fact that it went extinct in the past doesn't mean it couldn't thrive today. I'm sure dinosaurs would kick most animals' asses if brought back to life.
Sinister1811
2.1 / 5 (14) Feb 21, 2012
What's even more fascinating? I wonder if this plant has any medicinal properties.
Jayded
1.7 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2012
Everyone is posting about the stupid flower or plant which although interesting is not that exciting. clearly you all missed the part about reviving a mammoth?? what on earth are you going to do with a single mammoth?
Husky
4 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2012
make many exclusive ugg boots from its fur and sell its grinded ivory on asian ebay site as premium potence powder of the ancients?
Kinedryl
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 21, 2012
Instead of wasting your time typing up yet more global science conspiracy nonsense, you could have just Googled that for yourself.
I'm just quoting Mr. Alastair Murdoch, an expert on seed viability at the University of Reading in England from New York Times. But the PO voting trolls will indeed downvote it immediately as a single man, because they do believe, it's my private opinion...;-) It just illustrates, how weak contact with reality they do actually have...

http://www.nytime...ago.html

..America will be attacked with prehistoric flowers..
IMO Lurker2358's objection is quite relevant. We are facing many invasive species, which were transferred few thousands of kilometres in space, not in time just because they've no enemy in their new environment.
_ucci_oo
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2012
Growing a plant from old seeds and re animating a mammoth are 2 different things. I can grow a plant but revive a Mammoth?
roboferret
5 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2012
Everyone is posting about the stupid flower or plant which although interesting is not that exciting. clearly you all missed the part about reviving a mammoth?? what on earth are you going to do with a single mammoth?


Mount guns on it.
Kinedryl
1.4 / 5 (10) Feb 21, 2012
Users Vsha, ghidon, Bog_Mire, Ojorf, inkyoto, Sinister1811 and PosterusNeticus oposed the stance of university expert. I'd guess, many of them are Russians...
PS3
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 21, 2012
This story is suspicious, if we consider, when poppy seeds are kept at minus 7 degrees Celsius (the temperature the Russians reported for the campions) after only 160 years just 2 percent of the seeds will be able to germinate.

The seeds were dead,they cloned some tissue from it.
Deathclock
3.2 / 5 (10) Feb 21, 2012
Callippo said "The story is suspicious..."

Posterus Neticus replied "The svalbard global seed vault..."

To which Kinedryl replied "I'm just quoting..."

So, Kinedryl is Callippo... and who knows who else.

You really have to be a complete loser to post under multiple accounts here and use your AE's (I know you foreigners call them sock puppets, but on the rest of the internet they are called AE's, or alter egos) to support your other AE's.
LariAnn
2.6 / 5 (10) Feb 21, 2012
To those who have bought into the "invasive species" pseudoscientific nonsense, plants and animals have moved around the planet for millions of years. Some go extinct, some flourish, many adapt and change. Such is life. Do some study on "invasiveness" and you'll find that most, if not all, cases of "invasion" are due to the prior destruction of natural habitat by humans. Aggressively colonizing plants and animals just jump into the open niches, as they have done for millions of years. Talk to me about "invasive species" when we discover a non-terrestrial life form spreading on the planet Earth. Until then, stow the pseudoscientific hysteria.
Telekinetic
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 21, 2012
Callippo said "The story is suspicious..."

Posterus Neticus replied "The svalbard global seed vault..."

To which Kinedryl replied "I'm just quoting..."

So, Kinedryl is Callippo... and who knows who else.

You really have to be a complete loser to post under multiple accounts here and use your AE's (I know you foreigners call them sock puppets, but on the rest of the internet they are called AE's, or alter egos) to support your other AE's.

I don't know about that, but I do know that aroc91 is also orac and recently orak as well. He lives in his parent's toolshed.
Lurker2358
2 / 5 (7) Feb 21, 2012
I'm sure dinosaurs would kick most animals' asses if brought back to life.


Crocodiles are still around, and largely un-changed, except smaller*, and they still kick most creatures' asses, just the same.

Size may be limited more by lack of food sources and human hunters than actual genetics.

Komodo Dragons are a modern example of a large predatory lizard, and they are capable of hunting big game. one would imagine that if they got out in the wild on some regions of the continents they could become a dominant organism there as well.

I would tend to agree. If Tyrannosaurs or Raptors were somehow re-introduced into the ecosystem, with a reasonable initial size population, they would probably quickly become the apex predators in almost any region of the tropical or temperate world. Plus, they are big enough and fast enough to be able to migrate with the seasons, theoretically, if that's necessary.
Lurker2358
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 21, 2012
LariAnn:

The cases I was talking about are all MAN introduced organisms from other continents.

Snakehead introduced from Asia to U.S. rivers.

Tallow Trees introduced to U.S. from Asia.

Red Bellied Pacu were intentionally introduced to lakes in Papua New Guinea from Indonesia. They were thought to be herbivores which only eat seeds and fruits from plants, but when stressed, they became omnivores and began eating EVERYTHING. The fisherman blame it for also destroying the indigenous fish population.

http://animal.dis...acu.html

This is a real issue that actually happens.

This would not have happened if humans hadn't introduced them, and it's certainly NOT a case of a species "reclaiming" it's old territory.

In the U.S. all of the apex predatory fish, such as Catfish(which don't grow large any more,) and Alligator Gars, have been fished almost to extinction, so when somebody introduces a foreign fish, there is no competition for it.
Telekinetic
3 / 5 (8) Feb 21, 2012
Let the Russians revive anything they'd like, as long as it isn't Stalin.
edgeArchitect
4 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2012
There is a story in Russian folklore of Alenkey Tsvetocheck. Where a flower was taken from it's natural habitat with a promise to a keeper(a possessed monster) that was not delivered upon. The monster came to get his stuff back. I hope it is not the case here. :)
antialias_physorg
4.5 / 5 (4) Feb 22, 2012
Pun intended?

Of course.

if this species thrived when the average temperature was 60 degrees and went extinct when the temperature dropped to 50, it could thrive again if the average temperature is now back to 60.

Don't you think the current in-play species would also strive to adapt? It's not like evolution only ever works in one direction. Chances that a species that was 'out of it' for so long would suddenly find itself the best adapted species in an environment where all the other in-play species are somehow maladapted are exceedingly slim.

braindead
not rated yet Feb 25, 2012
"...the average temperature was 60 degrees..."
That's awfully warm for most people in the World. Seems the US is about the last bastion of Fahrenheit so don't be so parochial and at least include some units.
Shootist
1 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2012
If you were to bring back a caveman and release him on his own into a big city, what do you think would happen?


I think the caveman w'be offered more sex than Magic Johnson.
Shabs42
not rated yet Feb 25, 2012
"...the average temperature was 60 degrees..."
That's awfully warm for most people in the World. Seems the US is about the last bastion of Fahrenheit so don't be so parochial and at least include some units.


You are correct of course, but I thought it was fairly clear I was just throwing random numbers out as an example, in which case the units don't really matter. My example was also clearly simplified, didn't mean to imply that species currently thriving would be outcompeted so easily.
aironeous
1 / 5 (1) Feb 26, 2012
Everyone is posting about the stupid flower or plant which although interesting is not that exciting. clearly you all missed the part about reviving a mammoth?? what on earth are you going to do with a single mammoth?

Learn from it. Clone more and use it as a beast of burden in snowy climates. It could bring a lot of utility and probably economic possibilities to cold climate inhabitants.
ssco00
not rated yet Feb 27, 2012
Has anyone noticed that the article says that they "regenerated" the ancient plant from "frozen material" and the seeds from the new plants were viable. It does not really say that they planted the old seeds and found them still viable. It seemed very carefully worded that way. Other articles just stated that plants were grown from the old seeds, which could just be journalist talk.

Either way, this should give some encouragement to people in cryonics.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Feb 27, 2012
It's a clone
Whole, fertile plants of Silene stenophylla Ledeb. (Caryophyllaceae) have been uniquely regenerated from maternal, immature fruit tissue of Late Pleistocene age using in vitro tissue culture and clonal micropropagation.

Source: http://www.pnas.o...18386109