32,000-Year-Old Extinct Flower Brought Back To Life By Russian Scientists

Samuel Reason | February 27th, 2019

This is the oldest plant ever to have been regenerated, being grown from recovered seeds that were 32,000 years old. This beats the previous record holder by over 30,000 years! Deep in the Siberian tundra, a team of Russian researchers was able to discover a seed cache that was the Silene stenophylla.

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A flower that had long been native to Siberia but extinct for thousands of years. The seed cache had been burrowed into the ice, undoubtedly by a squirrel during the Ice Age by the banks of the Kolyma River. In fact, after a long process of radiocarbon dating, the team was able to scientifically prove these seeds were 32,000 years old.

These were mature and immature seeds that had been dug out of the ground 124 feet under the permafrost, completely encased in ice. Due to the location and freezing temperatures the seeds had been found in, the scientists were extremely hopeful they would be able to revive them. Among the seeds, the researchers also discovered bones from mammoths, bison, and wooly rhinoceroses.

The number of seeds found was what gave the researchers hope, some had been damaged beyond repair: most likely by the squirrel himself. But many were in great shape and had viable plant material that could be used to try to germinate the plant into growing.

First, the team started the complicated process of extracting the tissue from the frozen seeds, a process which is very delicate and requires hours of patience. The tissue extraction was completed successfully and it was all placed in vials. Using this tissue the team was able to germinate the plants and allow the flowers to start growing. After one year the flowers even created seeds of their own.

The study is an amazing proof that extinct plants are not always lost, as long as the seeds have been frozen there is hope that one day a team can replant them. Potentially a use case and study that shows the importance of creating gene banks to save species for the future.

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