February 21st, 2012
11:34 AM ET

Life resurrected from prehistoric seeds

Russian scientists say they've grown a flowering plant from material extracted from seeds deposited in the Siberian permafrost 30,000 years ago.

The work of the scientists at the Institute of Cell Biophysics in Russia is creating a worldwide buzz after being published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States.

Previously, the oldest known seed material that has been able to produce life was from about 2,000 years ago, science writer Ed Yong reports in a Discover magazine blog giving details of the work of the Russian breakthrough.

The plants, named silene stenophylla, are from a time when wooly mammoths and saber-tooth cats lived in Siberia. Their 300-century path to life began when squirrels brought the fruit of the plant and the immature seeds the fruit contained into a riverbank burrow. As the climate cooled, the burrow was covered with layers of ice and the seeds were preserved by temperatures of minus-7 degrees Celsius (19.4 degrees Fahrenheit), according to Yong's report.

The immature seeds were extracted from the burrow along the banks of the Kolyma River more than five years ago.

The Russian scientists were able to take what is called "placenta tissue" from the immature seeds, grow that tissue into mature seeds in a lab environment, and then plant those seeds in normal soil and watch them grow into the blossoming plants, according to a report from the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Those plants have now produced their own seeds and fruits, establishing a whole new generation of the ancient plant, the reports said.

The ancient plants differ only slightly from their modern descendants in the shape of their petals and sex of the flowers, the RIA Novosti report said.

The news of the ancient plants brought to life immediately brought speculation about whether other life forms might be resurrected from the permafrost, which James Haile, a scientist at Murdoch University in Australia, said earlier this year was "a giant molecular freezer" preserving the DNA of a thriving Pleistocene ecosystem.

"Siberia, Alaska and the Yukon could act as one massive freezer, where ancient life has been stored, waiting to greet the world again," Yong wrote on his blog.

"The success of the Russian scientists may open a door to a whole new area of experiments in reviving extinct plants buried under layers of soil, especially in the Arctic zone, for thousands of years," the RIA Novosti article said.

The new findings may give hope to a team of Russian, Japanese and American scientists who reported a year ago that within six years they hope to produce baby mammoth from DNA extracted from a Pleistocene mammoth carcass.

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Filed under: Russia • Science
soundoff (295 Responses)
  1. DJCowboy

    Killer soul patch dude! My cousin grew one after he came out of the closet too

    February 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jj

      I'm shaving mine immediately arshole. Lol

      February 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Duh

    People, wolly mamoths are not dinosaurs. They are cousins to the elephant. They were plant eaters and roamed the accient plans...until man and/or neaderthals and/or the climate killed them off. Sorry, no Juassic Park.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Duh

    Make that 'plains' and 'Jurassic'...need to spell check, I guess.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Fiona

    I'm surprised it isn't broom (gorse). You can't kill that stuff. The seeds would probably remain volatile through a nuclear holocaust.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Fiona

    What's interesting to me is that the plant is covered with fuzz. That's usually an adaptation against very hot, dry conditions.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vik

      Wow, very good observation.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • j. Majewski

      30,000 years ago it was very hot as we were approaching the latest ice age. Todays warming is the result of stil coming out of that ice age 15,000 years ago or so...

      February 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Is that why you are covered n fuzz?

      February 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GDI

    They forgot to say, these plants, when mature, emit a poison that dissolves human flesh...They will soon cover the whole earth (except where it is frozen solid)...

    February 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tim08

    Since this plant was cultivated and introduced into an obviously new ecosystem, why hasn’t someone given it a cute "Franken" name and run out and to count the population of Monarch butterflies?

    February 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TruAmerikan

    If we can smoke it, it will be the beginning of the next Stoned Age.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ellie

      Best laugh I've had in a while !

      February 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jim456

    Wow. This kind of news I like to read. Amazing

    February 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. LetsGetReal

    I have to say, I am disappointed at the lack of comments by true creationist clowns. (Trolls notwithstanding). They are so very entertaining ...

    February 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      I hope you will forgive, it is sometimes a bit awkward starting a conversation when at the origin being referred to as a "clown". Most often, I find it best to leave the person in peace and go on about my way, but I appreciate your concern for our wellbeing.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • TruAmerikan

      What's there to post that would be so entertaining? God created life as well as these seeds. The scientists didn't create life they just found what was there and helped it along.

      I'm a Christian and I think this is ver cool. Can't wait for the mammoth. That will be excellent.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      I’m disappointed; there were only two in that car!

      February 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      so much dissappointment......why are you two so dour about life and people? Try to cheer up, perhaps tomorrow will be a better day. We will give an earnest effort to amuse you both. Take care.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Your question was answered before you asked it. You can do better! I believe in you!

      February 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick

      well then, problem solved....you are welcome and have a great day

      February 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JR

    Religion was once the original Science, and now Science is our last Religion.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • ComeOnNow

      You have a definition problem. Religion takes faith ... Science is relies on objective evidence. Lesson over.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. boboTheClown

    Great news, the reps want to ressurect ronald reagan next.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob

      perhaps, but I suspect Lincoln would be first. Washington would be an outside shot, but my money would be on Abe.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cliff C

    This probably does not interest Atheists and will not stop them from ridiculing anyone with religious beliefs, but there are some who believe in God and also believe that the Earth was created in 7 stages, not days, and not periods of 1,000's of years. We even believe that the 7 stages were not necessarily equal in duration and took as long as was necessary to complete the tasks required for completion of that stage.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Convienently re-calcuated to fit your book vs. actual analysis on whether your book is inaccurate. There, you happy now?

      February 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cliff C

      What can I say? I like the book!

      February 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      @Cliff C
      That’s nice dear; did you have anything to contribute to the topic at hand?

      February 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • WordGirl

      For all you creationist haters out there, ponder for a second this simple law of Physics: order cannot come from chaos. Chaos can come from order, but never the other way around. To demonstrate what I mean, if you took a jar of red sand with one perfectly straight line of blue sand running through the middle of it and shook it up, you would forever lose that perfect blue line and no amount of shaking it would ever cause it to return to the perfect line it started out as (chaos coming from order). The same is true of the Big Bang THEORY some of you love so much. To conclude that this massive explosion eventually brought forth perfectly structured cells that grow, mature, multiply, heal themselves – creating networks and systems so intricate that they are easily more complex than the most mechanically advanced machine ever created by man – is to say that order can, in fact, come from chaos and thus, defying the law of Physics.

      Additionally, the carbon dating method that scientists like to utilize to determine the age of something is flawed and inexact at best. The same test that yields results causing scientists to conclude that something is millions of years old also always has another possible conclusion...that it is actually only thousands of years old. The evidence of the age of the earth is also found on the moon. Our moon generates a very exact layer of dust every year, year after year. So exact, in fact, that according to scientists' calculations, they were worried Neil Armstrong would step out onto the moon and sink into this dust that had been collecting for millions of years. But upon inspection of the depth of this dust, they found only enough dust to estimate the moon's age to be around 10,000 years.

      I have example upon example of these findings and they all lead me to the same conclusion: the evidence of a Creator. The very first atom could not have been created without a catalyst – something, Someone...to bring it into existence.

      By my calculations...can Nothing x No One = Everything? Hmmmm...nope, that's just too unbelievable for me.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • ComeOnNow

      @WordGirl: You should have stayed awake in school. You know nothing about science or law of physics and have nothing to contribute. Typical creationist idiocy ... they speak about subjects they are barely educated enough to spell.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      I tried to tell her to do some reading before she posted again….but nooooo and look what happened. Do you know how long it’s going to take to get that out of the carpet!?

      February 22, 2012 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
    • kayray

      Wordgirl please retake science over and over again until it sticks. Unbelievable that there are people like you still in existence today.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • WordGirl

      I find your responses laughable as not one of you brought forth any semblance of an intelligent thought. The common go-to dig I’ve seen over and over is “go read a book” or “get your facts straight” which is comical as not one of you seems to understand that these scientific ideas you’ve hung your hat on have NEVER been proven and NEVER will be proven because they are ideas that were born out of pure unbelief in God. Even Darwin’s famous Galapagos birds which he claimed was evidence of evolution has been completely debunked. Flat out not true.

      Bottom line is that you don't WANT to believe in God. God is not impossible for you, just seriously undesirable and uncomfortable and quite inconvenient. Even atheists are compelled to accept Jesus and parts of the Bible as historically real, but pick and choose inconsistently in Bible data that is natural (Jesus was born in Bethlehem, lived in Galilee, said astoundingly wise things no one ever matched, was crucified on Passover by Governor Pontius Pilate, etc.), but they have unbelief in Bible data that is supernatural. You would never treat science texts that way (or Dawkins books or Caesar's Commentaries for that matter) regarding the strange or one-time/luck/chance phenomena they may cite with no natural scientific explanation, but that really happened once against all odds or testability. Luck, chance, fate, destiny, improbabilities, longshots, one-of-a-kind wonders happen all the time to theists and atheists alike. Could these intangible non-natural events be real without tangible evidence? How does your "science" explain that? You choose what you “think” is irrefutable science over faith in God. The Big Bang Theory, the Theory of Evolution, etc, is nothing more than FAITH. You may not believe in God, but you do believe in something: “nobody x nothing = everything by spontaneous generation of causeless effects.” And that’s just plain preposterous.

      I find your lack of faith disturbing, and what you do auto-default to is 2-dimensional flat-level wishful thinking as if you profoundly dread the idea of God existing and hope beyond hope He doesn't. Because if He does, then..........................

      February 23, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. EuphoricCrest

    Big deal, 53 years ago scientists resurrected a neanderthal and now he's a GOP presidential candidate.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • TruAmerikan

      What about that "Lucy" you currently have in the White House?

      February 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • jj

      Several Neanderthals

      February 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iconoclast

      LOLOL!!! Thank you for making me laugh 🙂

      February 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Man from the 24th century

    Now it begins, humankind will raise to life every and all lifeforms that are currently referred to as "extinct".
    Mankind, the life maker.

    Take that bronze age gods!

    February 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • TruAmerikan

      No, not life maker. I'll be impressed when the scienticts can take the elements from the Periodic Table, put them in a jar and have something crawl out.

      Or better yet, let them make thier own elements out of nothingness.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iconoclast

      I must respecfully disagree that bringing life back is the same as making life. No matter how fascinated I am with observing what we as a species learn to do with the materials we have here, it is still not the same as creating those materials. All we do is manipulate what is already here.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
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