Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Flower...and Ultrarunning

This looks like an ordinary flower.  Pretty enough, but not particularly stunning or spectacular.

[image credit National Geographic, which I got to via Pharyngula]

What makes this plant both stunning and spectacular is that it was grown from 32,000 year old seeds!

Nat Geo tells us:

A Russian team discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were 32,000 years old.
The mature and immature seeds, which had been entirely encased in ice, were unearthed from 124 feet (38 meters) below the permafrost, surrounded by layers that included mammoth, bison, and woolly rhinoceros bones.
The mature seeds had been damaged—perhaps by the squirrel itself, to prevent them from germinating in the burrow. But some of the immature seeds retained viable plant material.
The team extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants, according to a new study. The plants—identical to each other but with different flower shapes from modern S. stenophylla—grew, flowered, and, after a year, created seeds of their own.

I am in awe of the remarkable powers of survival at work here.  Plus the added bonus of another proof of evolution--that the flower shapes have morphed in only 30 millenia.

Again the link to Ultrarunning is that while many of us just like the running part, the main draw for many more is the sheer amount of time we spend on our feet in the backcountry.  In our own way we are both botanist and zooloogist, observing and learning every time we hit a trail.  We are so much better connected to Nature than virtually any of our peers.  And for that I am grateful.

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