You Can NEVER Hold Back Spring
August 22, 2012 11:16 AM   Subscribe

32,000 years ago, a squirrel buried some fruits from a flower related to the narrow-leafed campion in a riverbank in Russia. Either the squirrel forgot, or got eaten itself, and the buried cache of fruits stayed, preserved by the permafrost. This year, Russian scientists discovered the cache, recovered the fruit, and thawed it out to see if they could recover the seeds. Some of the seeds did indeed germinate - and this winter, millennia after first growing on their parent plant, those seeds bloomed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos (69 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite

 
And so it begins...
posted by yoink at 11:18 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


That is freaking COOL!
posted by lazaruslong at 11:19 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


SCIENCE! i like it.
posted by elizardbits at 11:20 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


( ominous alpenhorns )

They are rather lovely looking flowers, though, and definitely a tribute to both science and nature.
posted by boo_radley at 11:20 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I cannot tell if there are extant narro-lead campions, or if they brought back an extinct plant species. Either way, very wonderful!
posted by Danf at 11:20 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


narrow-leafed, up there.

(but I get extra credit for *extant*)
posted by Danf at 11:22 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG!!!




No seriously this is great. Beautiful.
posted by odinsdream at 11:24 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yay, stupid ancient squirrels! Yay, Science!
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:24 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Either the squirrel forgot, or got eaten itself

Yeah, that just want the squirrels want you to think.

They have been planning this for millennia.
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:27 AM on August 22, 2012 [20 favorites]


I discovered this on someone's Facebook feed, and immediately started humming the Tom Waits song that gave me the title.

This feels somehow really, really hopeful - that even if we humans irretrievably screw up the planet, or if some other catastrophic disaster happens, no matter what, somehow life is going to find a way to come back someday.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:28 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


It makes me feel hopeful too.

But if it doesn't work out, Tom Waits still has you covered.
posted by boo_radley at 11:30 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


...no matter what, somehow life is going to find a way to come back someday.

Like Gary Snyder says, Nature bats last.
posted by tigrefacile at 11:31 AM on August 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


I am evidently more low-brow than you Tome Waits fans, because all I could think was: "Paging Chris Wedge".
posted by The Bellman at 11:33 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uh. . . TOM Waits. I'm not that low-brow. Edit window, where art thou?
posted by The Bellman at 11:34 AM on August 22, 2012


So I guess we know the theme of Ice Age 5 ....
posted by tilde at 11:35 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I cannot tell if there are extant narro-lead campions, or if they brought back an extinct plant species.

S.stenophylla is still around, but Yashina found that the ancient plants are subtly different to their modern counterparts, even those taken from the same region. They’re slower to grow roots, they produce more buds, and their flower petals were wider.

Also from the same article:
The lead author, David Gilichinsky passed away on 18 February, just two days before his final paper was published.

:(
posted by Big_B at 11:35 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ack! First part should be Danf's comment in italics.
posted by Big_B at 11:35 AM on August 22, 2012


Oh, sure, it's thawing and cloning a pretty flower this time, but before you know it, boom, an army of Super Stalins marching on Peoria.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:36 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like Gary Snyder says, Nature bats last.

Or: In Soviet Russia, nature conquers you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:36 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Welcome... to Jurassic Garden...
posted by Navelgazer at 11:37 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


How lovely. Not least because their delicacy and whiteness is evocative of winter.

They are certainly not the burly thick-stemmed plants I would have expected to be able to survive so long.
posted by bearwife at 11:43 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somewhere in Russia, there's a 32,000 year old squirrel going "FUUUUCK, so that's where I left 'em! Huh."
posted by slater at 11:43 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Damn, life. You tenacious.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:44 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


You just know some ancient saber-toothed squirrel planned this 32,000 years ago as viral advertising for Ice Age 5.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:50 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, sure, it's thawing and cloning a pretty flower this time, but before you know it, boom, an army of Super Stalins marching on Peoria.

Dammit, and I just finally got rid of all those Napoleons Bonaparte that hit my lawn last spring.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:51 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeh.

All life: tenacious.

A life: fragile.
posted by notyou at 11:53 AM on August 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


I remember when they found the fruits, pretty cool!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:57 AM on August 22, 2012


notyou: nice. that makes me think: if you want to be on the winning team, you should side with "all life" rather than "your own (puny, fragile) life". or, as kafka said: "in the struggle between yourself and the world, back the world."
posted by crazy_yeti at 11:59 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is awesome and I love it, but was the cause of the discovery of the seeds that global warming is causing the thawing out the permafrost faster and further than before?
posted by adamvasco at 12:01 PM on August 22, 2012


Seeds of Doom.
posted by justkevin at 12:06 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


thIs iS a MomeNtoUs ocCurrAncE foR scIencE aNd humANitY. We sTrongLY EnCouRage fuRTHer CultIVation oF ExoTIc sPEciES, wHich WIll oNlY bEneFit HuManITy. yEs, humaniTY.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:06 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


How cool.
posted by Doohickie at 12:08 PM on August 22, 2012


Dear human race,

You may eliminate yourselves and a few thousand other species, but the planet will get along just fine without you.

Your pal,

Earth
posted by freakazoid at 12:15 PM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Given that these specimens were found in the permafrost, this seems like another relevant Tom Waits tune.
posted by dhens at 12:22 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've read at least one book that puts forth the idea that crystalline structures qualify as life forms, because they can reproduce under a reasonable definition of that term. I thought it was an interesting thought experiment, but in light of these dormant seeds producing living plants, I find myself warming to a broader definition of the term "alive".
posted by davejay at 12:28 PM on August 22, 2012


[...] somehow life is going to find a way to come back someday.

You guys all read that in Jeff Goldblum's voice, right?
posted by fight or flight at 12:32 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Here's a pic of the little bastard: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Zojp6VSDkN0/T0XKIM91J7I/AAAAAAAACy8/5GTZYMpY_dw/s1600/ice_age_squirrel.jpg
posted by clvrmnky at 12:36 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"an army of Super Stalins marching on Peoria."

Jesus, Slap*Happy, what'd I ever do to you?

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:37 PM on August 22, 2012


I had always heard that squirrels don't remember where they bury their nuts, but a 1990 study says otherwise... and reading that study makes me want to build squirrel arenas and spend my life designing elaborate tests for them. SQUIRREL SCIENCE!
posted by Huck500 at 12:37 PM on August 22, 2012


Squirrels rule. That is all.
posted by Stoatfarm at 12:42 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


[...] somehow life is going to find a way to come back someday.

You guys all read that in Jeff Goldblum's voice, right?


Michael Kenneth Williams' voice, actually.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:52 PM on August 22, 2012


When I was six, I went camping with my parents at Camp Berwick, a United Church camp in Nova Scotia. I had brought with me a small collection of mixed sports cards, baseball and hockey, including some of my then-favourite ball player in all the world, Gary Carter.

Using six-year-old logic, I buried them next to the roots of a tree by our campsite, with the absolute assurance that we would be back the very next year, at which time I would unearth them and that would be cool.

As you've already guessed, we never came back.

I've wondered from time to time what happened to those cards, but now I know that my five-year-old self's loss is the future's gain, as in 31,977 years, Future People will unearth those cards and recreate Gary Carter using science.

In the year 33,989, a dystopian world bereft of hope will need a catcher. What it will get... is Gary Carter.
posted by Shepherd at 12:59 PM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wow.
I was showing my kid picture of Mars today, and I thought that was pretty damn cool. This too is sorta like that. He was asking why there's no life on Mars and I was saying how they're looking for water because water means life, and then about deep-sea vents and how there's life there and then... Can there be any doubt? Really? Plop a robot down near some of the suspected water sources, dig there. I'll take any bet you want to make and I can cover.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:10 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is cool. Very.

But all the Ice Age jokes have been taken.
posted by infini at 1:22 PM on August 22, 2012


For maximum irony, these should be among the first flowers we plant on terraformed Mars.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:26 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yay, let the plants inherit the earth (unless they are Triffids.)
posted by francesca too at 1:30 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a pic of the little bastard

Actually, sabre-toothed squirrels probably preferred insects.
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on August 22, 2012


"The Body of My Brother Osiris Is in the Mustard Seed," by Brooks Haxton

Seed from an early Egyptian tomb,
after water damage to the case
in the Historisches Museum,
sprouted in 1955.

That was the year my brother's foot
slipped on spray-wet log.
He was gone
into the whitewater out of sight.

Just downstream
the back of his head
came up
in a narrow chute.

Between terrible rocks
the back of my brother's head
looked wet and small and dark.
I watched it through the roar.

Through tears, afraid
to pray, I told God
he was swimming. Wait.
He would lift his face.
posted by goatdog at 1:40 PM on August 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Some of the seeds did indeed germinate

Full fact checking stop: the seeds themselves did not germinate. What was accomplished was done through tissue culture and cloning. As the second link describes it, "researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences recently decided to culture the cells to see if they would grow. Team leader Svetlana Yashina re-created Siberian conditions in the lab and watched as the refrigerated tissue sprouted buds that developed into 36 flowering plants within weeks." [emphasis added]

So the comparison (also in second link) with "2000-year-old Israeli date palm seed that previously held the record" is misleading — those were actual seeds that sprouted. In the Russian experiment, according to the paper's abstract, "uniquely regenerated from maternal, immature fruit tissue of Late Pleistocene age using in vitro tissue culture and clonal micropropagation."
posted by beagle at 1:41 PM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


GREAT JOB, BEAGLE WET BLANKET.
posted by goatdog at 1:53 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Spared no expense!"
posted by J.W. at 1:58 PM on August 22, 2012


Awesome. You all know the XKCD quote... Science -

COME ON CHRISTIANS, LETS SEE GOD DO THIS! STAT.
posted by marienbad at 3:40 PM on August 22, 2012


Michael Kenneth Williams' voice, actually.

David Attenborough
posted by LordSludge at 4:09 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find this little old flower to be very, very comforting. Just a silly white flower. From 32,000 years ago. Some things just truck on, don't they?
posted by iamkimiam at 4:25 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


We killed it. *kicks server*
posted by deborah at 5:11 PM on August 22, 2012


I'm sure it's been cached somewhere for the next 32,000 years.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:33 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you are interested in things paleobotanical, you might also like the story of the Wollemi Pine, a prehistoric coniferous tree thought to have vanished over 2 million years ago.

Until a field officer stumbled on a very odd-looking tree growing out of an Australian crevasse. There's a very good book about the whole subject, too.
posted by Aquaman at 5:56 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have a Wollemi in my garden.. Very nice it is too, with some strange characteristics in winter.
posted by estuardo at 6:27 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is wonderful and enormously comforting. Such lovely blooms!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:33 PM on August 22, 2012


goatdog I came here for the SCIENCE! and you made me cry. *runs away sobbing*

It's a beautiful poem, but damn the last verse just hit me like a freight train.
posted by Alnedra at 8:59 PM on August 22, 2012


Put another way, the seeds had already been down there for 27000 years when Ötzi took his final breaths.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:01 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


slater: Somewhere in Russia, there's a 32,000 year old squirrel going "FUUUUCK, so that's where I left 'em! Huh."

It was actually intended for the holovids, after the Great Collapse and Second Renaissance. And it would have worked, too, if not for these meddling kids scientists.
posted by Malor at 9:48 PM on August 22, 2012


I quoted the wrong comment in my reply. Damn, talk about stupid. Argh!
posted by Malor at 9:50 PM on August 22, 2012


That is so way cool that there are obvious differences between these flowers and the modern species. Evolution in action, folks.

I'd love to try growing a Wollemi. That, and a ginko, which are absolutely beautiful trees.

Now I want my thawed mammoth, dammit!
posted by BlueHorse at 10:36 PM on August 22, 2012


SKRAT WUZ HERE!
posted by liza at 12:37 AM on August 23, 2012


I'd love to try growing a Wollemi.

Meh, every member of my family has one. I think they're a bit pricey but not exactly hard to find, down under at least.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:44 PM on August 23, 2012


I, for one, welcome our narrow-leafed campion overlords.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 7:36 PM on August 24, 2012


Now I want my thawed mammoth, dammit!

Woolly mammoth remains may contain living cells: Hair, soft tissues and bone marrow found on Siberian expedition, raising hopes that extinct creature could be cloned
posted by homunculus at 1:08 PM on September 12, 2012


Ancient flower lives only on two Spanish cliffs, and uses ants to survive
posted by homunculus at 10:53 AM on September 13, 2012


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