In The News: Russian Scientists Revive 30,000-Year-Old Narrow-Leafed White Campion

Reader Contribution by Justine Patton
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Scientists from The Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences have successfully regenerated the flowering plant Silene stenophylla, a plant whose natural habitat is the tundra of far eastern Siberia. The plant, commonly called a narrow-leafed campion, grows to be 5 to 25 centimeters tall with lilac or white petals that bloom in the summer.

The scientists first discovered the plant’s fruit tissues in 2007, buried underground in an Ice Age squirrel’s burrow 125 feet below the surface. The tissues were surrounded by the squirrel’s other prized possessions, including fruit, seeds, hay and animal fur, for more than 30,000 years. After the discovery, the scientists first tried to germinate mature seeds from the fruit. When that plan failed, they attempted to use the tissue of the fossil fruit. What they got was a fertile plant with white flowers and viable seeds. 

The Silene stenophylla looks similar to this member of its family Silene latifolia, or white campion.
Photo by BlueRidgeKitties/Courtesy Flickr

The researchers hypothesize that the experiment’s success can, in part, be credited to the Siberian permafrost. They believe the freezing underground temperatures helped to preserve the plant’s tissues for thousands of years.

The scientists are hopeful that this discovery could lead the way to further regeneration of other plant species or even Ice Age mammals, such as the mammoth or wooly rhinoceros.

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