Monday, February 27, 2012

Incredible Seeds

Plant grown from 32,000 year old seed.
Recently, Russian scientists unearthed 32,000 year old seeds from Siberian permafrost.  These seeds had remained frozen underground at an average temperature of 19 degrees Fahrenheit over these millenniums.  They were hidden by a squirrel in its burrow but were subsequently buried under 38 meters of sediments and permafrost.  While finding ancient seeds buried deep in permafrost in itself is quite impressive, even more impressive is the fact that these scientists were actually able to germinate and grow some of these seeds!  Previously, the unofficially oldest seed ever germinated and grown was a 10,000 year old lupine seed found by a gold miner in the Canadian Yukon.   Officially though, the oldest seed ever germinated was a 2,000 year old Methuselah tree seed (ancestor of the modern date palm) found in ancient Jewish ruins located in modern day Israel (Click here for story).  So this new official record of 32,000 years blows away any of the previous records.  It also attests to the seeds amazing ability to survive adverse conditions for extremely long periods of time, simply waiting for the right conditions to germinate and grow again.  Extended dormancy of seeds is quite common in desert plants where seeds commonly lay dormant in dry desert soils for decades, waiting for just the right temperature and moisture conditions.  Marshes and permafrost areas also store seeds for long periods of time in their water saturated and or frozen soil conditions. 

Here's the story from National Geographic: 32,000-Year-Old Plant Brought Back to Life—Oldest Yet

 Supposedly, the ancient plant looks slightly different from modern day plants.  I couldn't find any images to verify this but it will be interesting to compare the genetics of the ancient to modern day plants.  I am sure a lot more research will go into the genetics of this ancient plant, comparing it to its modern ancestors.  I am guessing someone will do a little more digging in the area in order to unearth more frozen seeds to see what can be found. 

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