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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ice Age squirrel key to resurrecting ancient species of plants?

It was the blood from ancient mosquitoes trapped in amber that led to the resurrection of dinosaurs in the movie Jurassic Park. In Russia, scientists have revived a plant believed to be at least 30,000 years old, and they have a bushy-tailed rodent to thank for that:
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 "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" 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.
Squirrels! Who would have thought that those dreaded vermin could actually do something useful?

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