In 2012, S. Yashina, S. Gubin, S. Maksimovich, A. Yashina, E. Gakhova, and D. Gilichinsky found some 32,000-year-old seeds and managed to grow a viable plant from them. These seeds were found covered in ice and buried 125 feet underground, deep in the Siberian permafrost. At the time of this fascinating discovery, this group of scientists was investigating the burrows of ancient squirrels! The plant that had grown from these seeds was, in fact, a Silene stenophylla, a flower that looks strikingly similar to its modern doppelgänger that still grows in Siberia.
To this day, no one really knows how these seeds managed to survive for that long. Recently, some scientists in Austria decided to start tackling this mystery by investigating the DNA of these ancient plants.
This investigation is currently taking place at Vienna’s University Of Natural Resources And Life Sciences. The main goal of this exploration is to find out whether there are changes in plant genes that can adapt to very dry, hot, or cold conditions. Such findings could be really useful when dealing with climate change and looking for ways to help other plants survive.
Moreover, as the Russian permafrost is now thawing, researchers will also be able to investigate the environment further to see what factors might have helped the seeds stay viable.
“I think mankind needs to be thankful for every piece of knowledge that we are able to create to protect our croplands,” says Professor Margit Laimer, a plant biotechnologist at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna.
Let’s wish these scientists good luck and if anything interesting gets uncovered, we will be sure to keep you posted!