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. AngryBob

    Pretty seedy business if you ask me.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Frosty

    Can you smoke it? Eat it? Can we grow some prehistoric Melons? Man I love big Melons!

    February 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Put the coffee down

      *Like hehehe

      February 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ES

    Those who complain how much it costs – did you read that the work was done by russians. So, now let's compalin why US has no money to do cool things like that. Also russians drilled all the way to an antarctic lake while we squabble and bailout financial bandits, not to mention the wars.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • yOyO

      Russia is hardly the model nation... get with it.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Jackdaw

      Russia is crummy, yet they are ahead of us in some areas.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • CT

      The US is drilling in the same Antarctic lake as Russia. They just found a spot with thinner ice and got there first.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • ES

      > The US is drilling in the same Antarctic lake as Russia. They just found a spot with thinner ice and got there first.

      It is a matter of priorities, everything else is just excuses.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Jackdaw

      No, the US has NOT drilled to Lake Volstock.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. The Jackdaw

    I don’t understand why fundamentalist wackos are on here trying to defecate on science because one allowed an old seed to germinate. How can this be considered offensive without being absolutely insane? This is why religion is not respectable. People are fools. Defecating fools.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • sdfs

      Because, Sir, the Earth is only 6000 years old. You false notions of it being over 20,000 years old are simply tricks of the Devil! The Devil!

      February 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • STLBroker

      Not all Christians believe the earth is only 6,000 years old.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Take it up with your fellow Christians.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • sdfs

      >"Not all Christians believe the earth is only 6,000 years old."

      This is true. But the ones I stereotype do.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • mouse

      Because christian's want to believe that only their omnipotent god can create life – in any form – else their 2,000 year old fable is just that!

      February 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Anyone who believes the world is only 6000 years old will still believe the world is flat and that the cow can jump over the moon. They just are not thinking clearly and have had their judgement messed with by those that run the God Shops, which are a business called Churches. NO one NEEDS a Church to believe in or hold God in reverance. Further more people have been killed in the name of God than anything else since the world was created, how ever that happened. Now as for the age of the world, the proof of age is in the rocks, soil samples, and carbon dating. This is PROOF of fact not myth as some people seem to believe in. Geesh, even trying to reason with these folks is harder than trying to convince that cow to jump over the moon!

      February 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sdfs

    Can I smoke it.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allen

      Epic comment. Made my day better. Thank you!

      February 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • stoner123


      February 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bookenz

      Best comment ever.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. palintwit

    It is true that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that the baby jesus put those seeds there just to mess with everybody's head. Just ask Rick Santorum.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • stanton

      that is why I will never vote Republican again!!!!

      February 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jobenvy

    I ate a week old donut once.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • peggy

      Your comment made me laugh til tears–and I'm getting over a fever. Thanks for the uplift!

      February 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. WildWest

    All I can think of is Jurrasic Park......

    February 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      Funny that you should mention that...there were several plant eating dinosaurs during the Jurassic period that survived on eating mainly flowers which were abundant during that time. This is amazing...

      February 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. GrouchyKat

    This is an amazing discovery. But, there needs to be some serious thought before they grow something that we have no immunity or that has no natural predators.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • stanton

      who is the idiot who believes that the earth is only 6000 years is he related to you by any chance moron??????

      February 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Yo, stanton, there is nothing in GK's post that warrants the use of so many !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'s.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Meant the use of so many ???????????'s.
      The !!!!!!!'s were in your other posts.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dhaley

    Heh Heh Heh uhhh(licking lips), "Life finds a way."

    February 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Me

    The Jurassic Park of the botany world.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dorkus

    Does Monsanto know they grew this? I think they may already have a patent on it...

    February 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. RichWW2

    Hopefully this means we're one step closer to Jurassic Park! Who doesn't want to get chased by a T-Rex or mauled by a Raptor. I know i do!

    February 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MrWright

    And then the zombies came......

    February 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dhaley

    Scientists who can resurrect the extinct are 'Nature Gods'. Who doesnt want a flower like this protected by herbivorous dinosaurs and similar species! Let there be Dino Wars!! Just dont use any of my tax dollars for that mumbo jumbo.

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