Russian scientists brought to life a plant which had been frozen for more than 30,000 years. The research team from the Russian Institute of Cell Biophysics regenerated the silene stenophylia plant from the plant´s tissue discovered in the Siberian permafrost. The plant tissue had been stuck in a squirrel´s burrow in the Siberian permafrost for thousands of years. This becomes the oldest ice age plant to be regenerated, and the pioneering scientific project paves the way for the regeneration of other plant species.
Silene stenophylia is a plant belonging to the family of Caryophyllaceae and grows in the Arctic tundra of Eastern Siberia, and in the Northern Mountains of Japan. It grows to about 5-25 cm (2-10 inches) tall, and has a long stem with green leaves at the end of which opens up a number of white flower petals. Silene stenophylia is a perennial plant that strives on stony cliffs, as well as sandy shores. It usually blooms during the summer and comprises incised light pink or white petals.
The seeds of silene stenophylia were found in a squirrel´s burrow hidden in ice deposits on the banks of the lower Kolima River in northeastern Siberia. The ice deposits were tightly filled with ice, creating a natural freezing chamber, and making it impossible for water to infiltrate. The burrows were discovered 125 feet (38 meters) below the surface in layers containing the remains of large mammals. More than 600 samples of the plant were found at the location. This becomes the oldest plant remains kept alive for more than 32.000 thousand years, beating the previous record set by Judean palm seeds kept in Israel for 2,000 years.
Through the use of radio carbon dating, the frozen samples of silene stenophylia were estimated to be 32,000 years old, thus, becoming the oldest ice age plant to be regenerated, producing flowers and viable seeds. Svetlana Yashina, one of the Russian scientists who led the regeneration of the plant, affirmed that the resuscitated plant has similar resemblances to the modern version of the plant which can be seen growing in the same region of northern Siberia, and hopes the scientific team can continue doing research studies in the regeneration of plants.
Researchers said that this scientific experiment proves that permafrost may serve a natural storage for ancient life forms. In an article published in Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, researchers said “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.” Stanislav Gubin, one of the authors of the study said that the study has demonstrated that tissue can survive in permafrost for thousand s of years, opening the possibility of the regeneration of Ice Age mammals