An Ice Age plant was resurrected. Living plant tissue from hundreds of thousands of years ago might also be revived, helping scientists to understand the lost ecologies
February 21, 2012
By Sharon Levy of Nature magazine
During the Ice Age, Earth's northern reaches were covered by chilly, arid grasslands roamed by mammoths, woolly rhinoceros and long-horned bison. That ecosystem, known by palaeontologists as the mammoth steppe, vanished about 13,000 years ago. It has no modern counterpart.
Yet one of its plants has reportedly been resurrected by a team of scientists who tapped a treasure trove of fruits and seeds, buried some 30,000 years ago by ground squirrels and preserved in the permafrost (S. Yashina et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1118386109; 2012). The plant would be by far the most ancient ever revived; the previous record holder was a date palm grown from seeds roughly 2,000 years old.