Where the flower seeds was found in Russia. Late Pleistocene loess-ice deposits of Duvanny Yar, Kolyma Lowland. (A) General view. (B) Burrow of ground squirrels buried in permafrost deposits. Source: PNAS


Russian scientist uncovered seeds that were once hidden away by chipmunks some 30,000 years ago. And has ever since been protected by permafrost deep underground.

The seeds were found 38 meters deep on the ground, in a fossilized chipmunk den. The scientists managed the seemingly impossible and make the flower seeds shoot and then bloom.

They then noticed how they appeared differently than those flowers of the same sort still around today. And this offers insights into how evolution change plants.

This is the first time seeds this old have been made to sprout and bloom. Canadian researchers previously held the record having regenerated some significantly younger plants from seeds thousands of years old.

Flowering plants of Silene stenophylla. (A) Plant grew in vitro culture from the seed of an extant plant. (B) A plant regenerated in vitro culture from the tissue of fossil fruit with a primary strictly female flower. (C) A plant regenerated from tissue of fossil fruit with both female (f) and bisexual (b) flowers. Source: PNAS

The research may open up for more discoveries of protected plants hidden in the permafrost. “We consider it essential to continue permafrost studies in search of an ancient genetic pool, that of pre-existing life, which hypothetically has long since vanished from the earth’s surface.” study author Svetlana Yashina writes. The research was done by Svetlana and her team at the Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science, Russian Academy of Sciences.

These Russian flowers should be the oldest multicellular organisms alive today.

The study Regeneration of whole fertile plants from 30,000-y-old fruit tissue buried in Siberian permafrost has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Regeneration of whole fertile plants from 30,000-y-old fruit tissue buried in Siberian permafrost