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Flowering plant from ice age brought back to life

London , Tue, 21 Feb 2012 ANI

London, Feb 21 (ANI): Biologists have revived a 30,000-year-old plant that last flowered when ancient woolly mammoths roamed the Earth.


Cultivated from fruit tissues that were recovered from frozen sediment in Siberia, Silene stenophylla is by far the oldest to be brought back from the dead.


The previous record holder was a sacred lotus, which dated back about 1200 years.


The late David Gilichinsky and his colleagues from the Soil Cryology Laboratory in Moscow, Russia, recovered the fruits of the ice age flowering plant from a fossilised squirrel burrow in frozen sediments near the Kolyma river in north-east Siberia.


Radiocarbon dating of the fruit suggested that the squirrel hoarded it around 31,800 years ago, just before the ice rolled in.


By applying growth hormones to the fruit tissue, the researchers managed to initiate cell division and ultimately produce a practical flowering plant.


The modern day plant looks similar to the resurrected plant, but has larger seeds and fewer buds, and also grows roots more rapidly.


Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, is although impressed but cautious, because some supposedly "ancient" plants grown previously have turned out to be modern contaminants.


To rule out this possibility, the researchers went to some lengths to verify that the fruit came from undisturbed deposits.


"It is an exciting result and tells us we shouldn't just look for seeds when trying to generate ancient material," New Scientist quoted Steven Penfield, a plant scientist at the University of Exeter in Colchester, UK as saying.


The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)


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