After 30,000 years spent squirreled away (quite literally) in the permafrost of Siberia, ancient Silene stenophylla—or narrow-leafed campion—has found new life in 2012.
A team from the Institute of Cell Biophysics was successful in resurrecting the plant not through its intact, mature seeds, but by “placental” material pulled from the fruits themselves. The possibility that sucrose in the fruit acted as a preservative for its cells is of particular interest to the scientific community. But there’s more to it than that:
Silene stenophylla still grows on the Siberian tundra; and when the researchers compared modern-day plants against their resurrected cousins, they found subtle differences in the shape of petals and the sex of flowers, for reasons that are not evident.
The scientists suggest in their PNAS paper that research of this kind can help in studies of evolution, and shed light on environmental conditions in past millennia.
While scientists are still working on bringing woolly mammoth’s back from the ice, the success of this ancient campion spells out an interesting future for other plants—particularly those that have gone extinct. That’s assuming, of course, that the subjects botanists hope to revive happened to be on the squirrel’s menu thousands of years ago. —MN