Scientists in Vienna are seeking to sequence the genome of an ancient flowering plant believed to have been buried 32,000 years ago by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River, a top site for people looking for mammoth bones today.
A seed cache discovered by a Russian team years ago containing the Silene stenophylla, allowed scientists to extract tissue at depths of 20-40 meters below the surface from the frozen seeds and successfully germinate the plants later.
They fed the tissue cultures with a varied number of nutrients to induce root growth, and once the plants were rooted, they were transplanted into pots in a greenhouse, bringing the ancient plant back to life.
At Vienna’s University Of Natural Resources And Life Sciences, plant biotechnologist and professor Margit Laimer is now seeking to sequence its genome and figure out the order of its DNA, which can lead to understanding what its genes do, how different genes are related, and how the various parts of the genome are coordinated, hoping to uncover the conditions that kept the seeds viable for 32,000 years.
“We hope we can find changes in genes that allow plants to adapt to very dry or very cold or very hot conditions, and to use this knowledge, this new piece of knowledge that we can create for new plant improvement,” she told Reuters.