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. stanton

    sdfs is a moron anyone with a brain knows this!!!!! the earth is between 5-7 billion years old get over yourself!!!!!

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

      Look up the meaning of sarcasm.
      Then, look at sdfs's posts again..

      February 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nick-o

    When's jurassic park opening up?

    February 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LE117

    Very cool. Congratulations to the people who did this.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. maroongrad

    They WERE NOT SEEDS. They were small immature fruits. The tissues were cultured. No seeds were harmed, sprouted, or even seen in the making of this product. 😛 Please...I understand "dumbing down" complex ideas because simple is better. But when you claim it's a SEED, then go on to compare it to OTHER ancient seeds that really were seeds, ARGH. At least the mammoth discussion was closer, as it would have been far more similar to what was done.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • conrad

      I totally understand the curiosity driving this and it is an incredible scientific feat, but in all seriousness there is a reason these things are extinct and we should simply respect that. I wouldn't want scientists 30,000 years from now digging up my body to make clones from my tissue.

      Let the dead rest in peace.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean


      And what reason would that be Conrad? Do you also know for a fact what killed the Dinosaurs too? Why are you keeping the rest of us int eh dark?!

      February 22, 2012 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. Myfakename

    I just wanna know, how did the scientists know it was squirrels that collected the seeds?

    February 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • csam18

      There was a frozen squirrel holding it when they found it. It has been verified that this is the same squirrel depicted in the movie Ice Age.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marlene

      Maybe they found skeletons of squirrels along with the seeds?

      February 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • DontBeGoogle

      They found a treasure map drawn by a squirrel (30,000 years ago) in a Siberian snow forest.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dhaley

    Six years give or take

    February 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. csam18

    This is how the Zombie apocalypse begins.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • svscnn

      Yeah, but it should be pretty easy to outrun prehistoric plants. Even if they are zomibiefied.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • conrad

      How fast do Woolly Mammoths run?

      Didn't these scientists see Jurassic Park? What's next, a Triceratops? Danger Danger ...

      February 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. krozar

    I wonder if the History Channel can bring back some of those ancient aliens.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zeta Riticulan

      Oh, we'll be returning on our own soon enough!

      February 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ^^^^^^^^^^ BreakingNewsBlog.TV ^^^^^^^^^^

    amazing news ... if true ... 🙂

    February 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. PantyRaid

    Jurassic Garden

    Where's the hot stoner chicks?

    February 21, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack Be Humble

      A Neanderathal and a Cromagnon walk into a freezer.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. WDinDallas

    Next week news: 300,000 die in Russia from weird 30,0000 year old flower.

    February 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jack Be Humble

    Producing a Mammoth that, from the timing of the permafrost, existed before God created the world. That should give some strict creationists pause for thought.

    February 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      There's only one flaw in your logic .. creationists don't pause to think!

      February 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. IceT

    Wow, 30,000 years of "living" evolution right before our eyes ... yet some still won't accept it.

    February 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. cpc65


    February 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. IceT

    "This species of veriforma has been extinct since the cretacous!"

    February 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
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