Life resurrected from prehistoric seeds

Russian scientists reported in PNAS (an important scientific journal) that they have resurrected a plant from seeds 32.000 years old and frozen deep underneath the surface of Siberia. This could be the first step towards a floral Jurassic Park.

To achieve this feat, David Gilichinsky and Yashina Svetlana, from the Russian Academy of Sciences, first tried to germinate the prehistoric Silene Stenophyla seeds directly, but without success. They then collected the placental tissue, contained in these seeds. After manipulations, they have developed rapidly. They have then grown this 'embryo' under a controlled temperature and light. Quickly, the seeds became a beautiful plant with white petals.

These seeds were found in the soil of Siberia at 38 meters deep. They were there for a very long time, in the hibernation caves of prehistoric squirrels, and perfectly preserved due to the constant subzero temperature.

The first resurrected prehistoric plant also gave viable seeds that helped to grow a second generation. Researchers have already noticed that the roots of the resurrected Silene Stenophyla species take more time to grow and the petals are less tight than their modern day equivalent, which can still be found in Siberia. These features certainly allow the plant to survive during the glacial period.

Grant Zazula, a Canadian palaeontologist who already worked on similar experiences: "This will allow us to discover the plants that lived in our old land and help us understand the genetic evolution of the flora of the steppes, which have largely disappeared." The Japanese have a similar project to recreate a mammoth from its DNA before 2050. By then the botanists should already be able to offer an original habitat.


Le Figaro - La première plante préhistorique ressuscitée (French)