Friday, February 24, 2012

Jurassic Park Plants

Plant in a Jar
Not a people eating dinosaur, but a real-life resurrection of a Pleistocene era plant. Scientists in Russia were able to take tissue samples from a 30,000 year old fruit taken from the permafrost in Siberia and grow a fertile live specimen. Apparently a squirrel buried a fruit from a Sylene stenophylla or narrow-leafed Campion plant about 31,800 years ago, give or take, where it was frozen shortly thereafter and remained so until recently.

According to the article:
In their lab near Moscow, the scientists sought to grow plants from mature S. Stenophylla seeds, but when that failed, they turned to the plant's placental tissue, the fruit structure to which seeds attach, to successfully grow regenerated whole plants in pots under controlled light and temperature.
Here's a link to the peer reviewed study.  The technique "...using in vitro tissue culture and clonal micropropagation" sounds futuristic and difficult, but it's pretty much the same pedestrian technique used daily by the greenhouse growing industry to mass produce for the annual flower trade. The plants in the yearly trials at Landisville are produced this way, as well.  Here's a fact sheet on mass production of day lilies using in vitro propagation.  The technique allows for rapid introductions of newly created hybrid plant cultivars.  For example, the explosion in varieties of wave petunias at very reasonable prices, was made possible by test tube tissue propagation.

Although the plant resurrected in this case is a common one with a contemporary counterpart, the thawing of plant tissue after many thousands of years "demonstrates a role for permafrost as a depository for an ancient gene pool, i.e., preexisting life, which hypothetically has long since vanished from the earth's surface, a potential source of ancient germplasm, and a laboratory for the study of rates of microevolution."

New York Times article here.

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