The evil work of ground squirrels turns into a modern, scientific achievement when, according to a Discover Magazine posting, Russian scientists grew flowers from 31,800-plus year old fruits that the furry little buggers buried in Siberia.
Pictured below, the flowers, named Silene stenophylla, grew from extracted material in seeds that were preserved at seven-below-zero degree Celsius, buried on the banks of the Kolyma River by, most likely, a squirrel.
While we as gardeners tuck seeds into sterile material and wait for them to sprout, the Russian team took a little bit of a different approach:
Svetlana Yashina from the Russian Academy of Sciences grew the plants from immature fruits recovered from the burrow. She extracted their placentas – the structure that the seeds attach to – and bathed them in a brew of sugars, vitamins and growth factors. From these tissues, roots and shoots emerged.
Silene stenophylla, still existing in nature today in an evolved format, appears to be the real deal. Its seed material has been verified, based on the age of surrounding samples. What is also amazing is the suggested amount of radiation the plant would have absorbed.
Back in 2008, Israeli scientists grew the Phoenix palm from seeds that were roughly 20 centuries old. In the 1960s, Canadian scientists cloned what they thought were Arctic lupins; it turned out to just be a contaminated sample.
A note of caution about the study: at the moment of this writing, the DOI entry is not accessible. It should be available, later this week or next, here.