Scientists grow plant from 30,000-year-old fruit

A team of Russian scientists announced Monday that they had succeeded in growing a plant from a fruit stored away by squirrels in permafrost over 30,000 years ago.

The Russian researchers, who published their findings Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, say the squirrel’s burrow was probably frozen over quickly, and stayed that way until they discovered it.

“The squirrels dug the frozen ground to build their burrows, which are about the size of a soccer ball, putting in hay first and then animal fur for a perfect storage chamber,” said Stanislav Gubin, one of the authors of the study, as quoted by ABC news.

Scientists applied growth hormones to the fruit tissue, which aided in cell division and finally the blossoming of the plant.

The white-pettaled plant, Silene stenophylla, was cultivated in a lab through a process called clonal micopropagation, and the New York Times reports that this marks the oldest plant that has ever been grown from a preserved seed.

Before this, the oldest plant was a date palm grown from a seed from the ancient fotress of Masada in Israel dating back about 2,000 years.

According to the BBC, researchers found the fruit on the banks of a river in Siberia.

"The presence of vertical ice wedges demonstrates that it has been continuously frozen and never thawed," the authors wrote, says the BBC. "Accordingly, the fossil burrows and their content have never been defrosted since burial and simultaneous freezing."

The claims remain controversial, however, as prior findings, such as wheat seeds said to be found in Pharoah's tombs has later been discredited, says the New York Times.

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