The Lazarus Plant

According to the New York Times, a team of Russian scientists has revived an ancient plant species from seeds that had been preserved in the Siberian permafrost for tens of thousands of years.  Apparently, they succeeded in extracting a tissue-culture and growing it in vitro in a laboratory. Though the plant species still exists, the older specimen may yield some fascinating insights into evolution and speciation.

The researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The age of the seeds is estimated to be between 30,000 to 32,000 years old, making this the oldest organism ever to be “resurrected.” The team recovered them from burrows located very deep beneath the Siberian tundra, some of which contained as many as 600,000 seeds. They were gathered and stored by an ancient species of ground squirrel whose prolific collecting may yet yield more well-preserved samples of other ancient plants.

As of this post, the developments are still ongoing. It remains to be seen if this plant can successfully propagate, or if it will be viable for long. If anyone wants more detailed and expert information on the significance of this finding, I direct you to a great post in Why Evolution Is Trufrom biologist Jerry Coyne.

You can also read one of my earlier posts on yet another plant that was resurrected in a similar way. Though nowhere near as ancient, it was actually extinct until very recently.


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