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Russian lab grows plants from 30,000-year-old seeds found in permafrost

Denis Sinyakov / Reuters

Senior research associate Svetlana Yashina inspects a container with an outgrowth of the Silene stenophylla, considered as the oldest plant ever to be regenerated, at a laboratory of the Institute of Cell Biophysics under the Russian Academy Of Sciences in the town of Pushchino, 62 miles south of the capital Moscow on Friday.The seeds of a flowering plant also known as the narrow-leafed campion, were found by Russian scientists on the banks of the Kolyma River in Siberia in an Ice Age ground-squirrel's burrow containing fruit and seeds that had been stuck in the permafrost for about 30,000 years. The permafrost, which serves as a natural depository for ancient life forms, may help researchers and scientists with their future experiments to revive other species, according to local media.

Denis Sinyakov / Reuters

The Silene stenophylla, considered as the oldest plant ever to be regenerated, is seen at a laboratory of the Institute of Cell Biophysics.

Denis Sinyakov / Reuters

Seeds of the Silene stenophylla, considered as the oldest plant ever to be regenerated, are seen in this picture taken by a microscope with a 16-fold zoom at a laboratory of the Institute of Cell Biophysics.

From the full story by LiveScience: The fruit tissue came from animal burrows frozen in permafrost by the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia. Small creatures, such as an Arctic species of ground squirrel, once stored away tens of thousands of seeds and fruits in these burrows, where they remained in a deep freeze. The newly revived fruit tissue has been radiocarbon dated to between 28,000 and 32,000 years old. (This method dates material based on the decay rate of its radioactive carbon.)

"This is a plant that has a lot of built-in mechanisms for survival in a harsh environment," Shen-Miller told LiveScience. Most plant seeds die within a few years, she said. But a few hearty species, including the 1,300-year-old lotus and S. stenophylla have built-in mechanisms that either preserve or repair the plants' DNA.