If the fictional acorn-obsessed sabretooth squirrel from the animated movie franchise Ice Age were ever to leave behind a legacy in the real world, it would perhaps have a close resemblance to the contents of a recent viral tweet. It features a previously extinct plant from the Ice Age that scientists managed to revive using plant tissue found in 32,000-year-old seeds. Researchers found the plant seeds frozen in, you guessed it, an Ice Age squirrel’s burrow.
According to National Geographic, this plant, Silene stenophylla, is a flowering plant native to Siberia. Due to the efforts of a Russian team of scientists, it had become the oldest plant ever to be regenerated upon revival. The record was previously held by a resurrected date palm from two millennia ago.
The Russian team that discovered the seeds near the banks of the Kolyma River around a decade ago had then confirmed that radiocarbon dating revealed the seeds to be 32,000 years old. The ancient squirrel’s treasure trove contained both mature and immature seeds that had become completely entrapped in ice over the course of time. The seeds, which were found 138 meters below the permafrost, were surrounded by layers of mammoth and woolly rhinoceros bones, amongst other things.
While the mature seeds were damaged, a few of the immature seeds enclosed viable plant material. The scientists placed the tissue extracted from seeds into vials and managed to successfully germinate the plants. The plants resemble modern S. stenophylla, albeit with different flower shapes.
It appears that professionals in the field are excited about the results, especially because it implies that permafrost could serve as a repository for an ancient gene pool. Finding such deposits could make the resurrection of extinct species possible.
While scientists might be thrilled, many people on Twitter are not. The comment section under the viral tweet is filled with people referencing movies where such resurrection endeavours resulted in disasters. Jurassic Park and Little Shop of Horrors have been mentioned the most.
On the other hand, there are those who seem excited about what the future holds. Some even have requests for scientists.
It might be interesting to note that the particular milestone being talked about in the viral tweet was actually achieved a decade ago in 2012.