back to article Squirrelled away: seeds survive 30,000-year winter

About 30,000 years ago, a squirrel saved some fruits in a burrow that was frozen over, and stayed that way ever since. Now, Russian scientists have not only recovered the seeds – they’ve grown viable plants from them. According to Discovery, the fruits survived at a depth of 38 meters (125 feet), at -7°C until they were …

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  1. Anonymous John

    a huge dose of radiation

    I for one, welcome our new Triffid overlords.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: a huge dose of radiation

      Indeed - I'm disappointed that this article lacks the usually-reliable faux-alarmism El Reg supplies when reporting on vaguely sci-fi-thriller-esque issues. I mean, the B-movie titles nearly write themselves: "SEDUCTION OF THE 300 CENTURY OLD SPORE WHORES", anyone?

      1. aurizon
        Thumb Up

        Re: Re: a huge dose of radiation

        With seeds frozen, there is zero DNA repair active, so the damage does accumulate - unless seeds have evolved to be tolerant? So if they are able to clone plants from a viable cell, it will have tolerated that accumulated dose. It will be interesting to see how the descendants of this plant flourish. There are a number of extinct plants that might be cultured via this method. I think this is very important news.

    2. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: a huge dose of radiation

      Damn, I was going to start a scare thread of "The Triffids are Coming!" a la Kempf. Too obvious?

    3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: a huge dose of radiation

      Buggritt. You beat me to it

  2. hplasm Silver badge
    Happy

    Aha!

    Tesco has been selling this fruit for ages!

  3. Graham Dawson
    Thumb Up

    http://imgur.com/s3eaZ

    Scrat!

    1. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Up

      @Graham Dawson

      Just what I was thinking! :-)

      1. Thomas 4

        Wait

        Is 70 Grays the number of squirrels or the amount of radiation?

        Skim reading ftl.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The scientists point out that Earth’s huge permafrost areas probably represent a vast seed bank that could yield information about how life evolved. "

    NO No No,, God placed the seeds there to test creationists stupidi... faith.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Shut up and enjoy the news you sour-faced nit. The tirade gets old.

      - A Creationist

      1. cocknee
        Pirate

        whilst I normally deplore any prejudice, Creationists are a bit thick and therefore fair game; bit like shooting caged birds though. Actually that's not right as the caged birds are prevented from helping themselves.

        Creationists are like pheasants on the road, too bloody stupid to get out of the way of my car, splat!!!

        Too dim realise that they're on to a loser. Evolution has dealt them a flawed life.

        One is likely to get mown down and filled full of lead. The other is bed wetting simpleton.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Coat

          @cocknee

          Come now, let's be fair. I've never known a pheasant to wet its bed.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "whilst I normally deplore any prejudice, Creationists are a bit thick "

          Meaning you don't normally deplore any prejudice, you only deplore a prejudice against something you agree with. Bigotry disguised as enlightenment is still bigotry. Condemning an entire group of people based on your own prejudice is bigotry no matter how you spin it.

          Of course, you'll just hold up your hands and proclaim innocence, after all, those idiot creationists were asking for it by believing such silly things, right? They're just idiots. Maybe they should be required to wear special clothing to show how stupid they are. Maybe we should take their children from them because they're obviously abusing them by filling their heads with such idiotic beliefs. Maybe they shouldn't be allowed to breed at all. Maybe they should be forcibly sterilised. Maybe any country where they have dominance should be placed under sanctions until it deals with the "threat" they pose. Maybe we should just go right ahead and invade the place to be sure they can't become a threat to begin with. Maybe we should just wipe them out now before they can destroy us.

          After all, they had it coming. They're too stupid to get out of the way..

          1. CD001

            Pretty much sounds like American foreign policy already... just swap "creationists" for "believers in a false god" and you've nailed it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @AC: 12:42 GMT

            Way to lose the plot there Noah.

            1. perlcat
              Black Helicopters

              @ Norfolk 'n' Goode

              Actually, "Noah" there has a point about prejudice that we ignore at our peril.

              Just because we think that someone else is a nut because of their "wrong" opinion does not give us license to harass them and then pretend moral superiority. If you deplore prejudice, you should deplore *all* prejudice -- or you are not only prejudiced, but also hypocritical. There is no "good" prejudice.

              You always have to take care that you do not become that which you deplore.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @ Norfolk 'n' Goode

                Sorry but I still think he was way over the top.

                Nobody wants to kill creationists but I do think indoctrinating kids into deliberately ignorant and delusional thinking practices is child abuse.

                1. perlcat
                  Black Helicopters

                  Re: Re: @ Norfolk 'n' Goode

                  Not sure you read the same posting I did.

                  Poster wasn't advocating or even talking about educating children into creationism. He was describing so-called "good" prejudice being used to justify oppressing people with "wrong" opinions, using known examples of oppression from history to prove a point. That's not "over the top" -- especially when people subsequently mis-cast that into something else because of the repugnance they feel towards the subject.

                  Maybe you can twist teaching children creationism into child abuse -- but pushing that particular belief system on children pales in comparison to actual child abuse. You're treating creationism as a thought crime -- not just an illogical belief system -- and you don't grok the horror in oppressing people in order to stop it, because you see it as a crime.

                  Fair disclaimer -- I think creationism is claptrap -- like a lot of creation mythos. Most likely, at the time that it was originally cooked up, it gave a people a sense of identity -- a 'who we are and where we came from' -- that modern archaeology/paleontology/geology handily disproves. A child may not completely understand evolution -- so we explain it in terms they understand, and we are often amused by the wild ways they repeat their understanding among their friends. Why would societies not also have an evolution in thought that progresses from mythology to science? That view isn't even incompatible with religion per se -- there is no reason that a creator would not use his/her/its noodly appendages to write a Book that his/her/its creations could understand, and leave the evidence otherwise out there to be discovered at a later date when they are ready for it.

                  I cannot justify abusing people for the thoughts in their heads.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Re: Re: @ Norfolk 'n' Goode

                    "I cannot justify abusing people for the thoughts in their heads."

                    How about abusing them for trying top ram those 'delusional' thoughts down all our kids throats.

                    If you don't know what I am referring to a good start is to search for the term 'cdesign proponentsists'

                    1. perlcat
                      Facepalm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: @ Norfolk 'n' Goode

                      ...of *course* it has no place in public schools.

                      You should learn science, history, technology and things like that in school -- and get your religious training from churches -- if you so desire.

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: @ Norfolk 'n' Goode

                        Shockingly enough I (being the previous anon, if you can believe it) agree. Publicly funded schools (which includes all of those wonderful "private" PFI-funded "academies" that the last lot set up) should stick to teaching science in the science lab and put creationism in with religious education in general. It's not science. I have always professed that it's not science. Actual private schools are another matter of course - they're not paid for by taxes so the only people who should get to say how they're run are the people who actually pay for them. But, again, I'd be rather annoyed if I was sending my non-existant children to a school that thought it was appropriate to teach religion in a science class.

                        And you'll find that the majority of creationist-leaning sorts would actually agree with this. We aren't nearly as stupid as you seem to believe, mr Goode, so you can take your prejudice and stuff it up your arse.

      2. Bumpy Cat
        Devil

        The tirade gets old ...

        But not older than 6000 years, amiright? ^_______^

      3. KirstarK

        If you not so obviously stupid

        If you were not so obviously stupid people would not feel the need to comment on said stupid.

  5. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Thirty Thousand year old seeds?

    That's just nuts

  6. BlueGreen

    effing fantastic - if true

    campion are annuals and probably have small seeds. Was looking for pics of seeds and came across this, about white campion:

    "Persistence and Spread: Seed recovered from archaeological digs and house demolitions is said to have germinated after 70 years burial. Seed buried in mineral soil retained up to 52% viability after 4 years depending on burial depth but had only 1-2% viability after 20 years. Seed buried in a peat soil at 26 cm retained little viability after just 1 year. Seed stored under granary conditions had 27% viability after 1 year but was no longer viable after 20 years. "

    Loads radiation and sod all energy input for an ice age or so and they're still *viable*? And they even fairly closely resemble their living relatives after 30,000 generations (them being annuals, 1 lifespan = 1 year). Long-lived fauna has changed remarkably more in the same period q.v. mammoth, fecking huge wooly rhinos, aurochs, european lions, giant armadillos (giant sloth too?), etc. but these are 'subtly different'. Very, very hard to believe.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: effing fantastic - if true

      Mammoth, wooly rhinos, aurochs, european lions, and giant armadillos share one common feature: they are extinct! Plenty of other species have not changed very much over 30,000 years... crocodiles, coelocanths, squirrels. Homo sapiens arose about 50,000 years ago. Also, small populations can experience genetic drift, and big fauna is likely to have smaller populations than small flora.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Not interesting

        Can we have the ultimate potential domestic animal which humanity stupidly exterminated - the Steller cow. There is still plenty of kelp around the world temperate and arctic coasts. If we had a (semi)domestic animal feeding of it...

        1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Not interesting

          Very tasty!

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Ronaldsay_%28sheep%29

          1. BlueGreen

            Re: Re: Not interesting

            Err, not ezzactly cows, despite the name. they were sea-cows, a type of manatee <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steller%27s_sea_cow>.

            Bummer they're gone.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not interesting

          ultimate potential domestic animal which humanity stupidly exterminated - the Steller cow

          ultimate potential domestic pet which humanity stupidly exterminated - the Dwarf elephant. They would have been so cool.

      2. BlueGreen

        Re: Re: effing fantastic - if true

        Whether they're extinct or not is irrelevant (I think?). Elephants, rhinos, cows, lions and mini-armadillos aren't. So we can reasonably admit some very non-subtle changes.

        Also these are *annuals*. they reproduce fast. I'd expect much greater genetic drift (not an expert though) than megafauna with slow gestation. And annuals tend to have small seeds (they are not nuts), so why was a squirrel collecting &stashing them? Here's a photo, no scale given, you decide <http://www.andrewbarrettphotography.co.uk/red-campion-seed-head>

        Also, from bbc site <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17100574> the seeds weren't viable: "Back in the lab, near Moscow, the team's attempts to germinate mature seeds failed. Eventually they found success using elements of the fruit itself, which they refer to as "placental tissue" and propagated in laboratory dishes."

        Dunno. Skepty-detector twitching.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re: Re: effing fantastic - if true

          Wooly mammoths diverged from Elephants about 5 or 6 million years ago, so comparing them to a 30,000 year difference between plants is a bit off.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Re: effing fantastic - if true

        "Mammoth, wooly rhinos, aurochs, european lions, and giant armadillos share one common feature: they are extinct!"

        ...and *Awesome!* I mean, seriously, a giant armadillo? You resurrect some of that shit and I'll be on the zoo ticket line before you can say 'Paris Hilton'. The only thing that comes close is a capybara, a giant-ass guinea pig that's so obscure even spell checkers don't recognize it. Google it. You won't be sorry.

        1. BlueGreen

          Re: Re: Re: effing fantastic - if true @David W.

          <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doedicurus> great photo of carapace too.

          I'd be fighting you for a place in that queue.

          And capybara? I crush your poxy capybara with my beaver <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castoroides>

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Re: Re: Re: effing fantastic - if true @David W. @ BlueGreen

            Yeah, but your big bonkin' beaver isn't alive any more. I can - and have - actually go to the zoo and see a capybara. And let me tell you, they're just as awesome as I think they are. They're just bad.ass. with a capital bad. Seriously. You cannot find another living animal that's as cool as a capybara.

            Aside from my cat.

            1. perlcat
              Coffee/keyboard

              @David W.

              You had me at "big bonkin' beaver"...

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Am I the only one...

      ...who got the picture of that little rodent in "Ice Age" running after his precious nut?

    3. Fibbles

      Re: effing fantastic - if true

      You are aware that modern elephants did not evolve from mammoths right? To say fauna has changed remarkably in 30,000 years whilst this species of plant has not is fairly ridiculous. The example you give is in fact two distinct species rather than an evolutionary progression of a single species.

      1. BlueGreen

        Re: Re: effing fantastic - if true

        > You are aware that modern elephants did not evolve from mammoths right?

        good catch.

        > To say fauna has changed remarkably in 30,000 years whilst this species of plant has not is fairly ridiculous

        It does not strike me as ridiculous. Put it another way, the faunal landscape has changed considerably (so sidestepping the issue of linear descent). True? But the plant is very, very similar to one that is extant. And it's apparently got tiny seeds, which being annuals are probably not evolved for long viability.

        And they were preserved in subzero temps (from the link on main page "surrounded by permanently frozen soil ") so they had no liquid water so they survived 30K years dry?

        And without germinating, hence without any known energy and mass collection mechanisms (that I'm aware of) they managed to tick over for astonishing period without consuming all their resources and inevitably dying totally?

        And they only lasted a mere 16 times longer than the next best survivor <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldest_viable_seed>, you're not suspicious yet? (although I do recall a ~5,000 y/o magnolia seed germinated, so perhaps it's *merely* 6 times older IIRC).

        I'd love this to be true but there's this massive reality cliff I can't, quite, tackle yet.

    4. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: effing fantastic - if true

      "fecking huge wooly rhinos"

      You've met the mother-in-law, then?

  7. Originone

    About that radiation

    Where did it come from? Was it just the sum total of 30,000 years background exposure or was there some natural source local to where the seeds were found?

    1. Old Handle

      Re: About that radiation

      I assume they're talking about background radiation, as it does usually come up this "old seed" stories.

  8. moiety

    Grays? Is that radiation or squirrels?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Alien

      Re Grays?

      Was just thinking that myself.

      The other thought was WTF is a Gray? I've only just got the hang of milliseverts now we can't use Roentgens any more.

      Is a Gray an El Reg unit in honour of our alien overlords?

      1. Bumpy Cat
        Headmaster

        Re: Re Grays?

        Greys (grays) is a unit of absorbed radiation, IIRC one joule of ionizing radiation in one kg of matter.

      2. quartzie

        Re: Re Grays?

        Wikipedia is your friend...

        To sum it up, Gray is the less discriminating unit = radiated energy/mass

        Sievert is exactly the same thing, as long as the radiation is Gamma rays. Other types of radiation, namely alpha & beta can have significantly worse effects on tissue, and therefore include a coefficient, which compares them to an equivalent dose of Gamma rays.

        namely:

        Gamma 1x

        Beta 2x

        Alpha 20x

        Thankfully, alpha radiation is generally easy to stop, so unless one gets a source inside his body, (remember Litvinenko in 2006?) one should be relatively safe.

        1. Reginald Gerard

          Smokers be ware....

          you do exactly that. Polonium has a short 1/2 life and discharges quite a lot of Alpha particles. Go look it up in Google, "polonium in tobacco" :

          http://acsa.net/HealthAlert/lungcancer.html

          http://www.epa.gov/radiation/sources/tobacco.html

          Where does polonium in tobacco come from? Phosphate fertilizers, favored by the tobacco industry, contain Radium and its decay products (including Lead-210 and Polonium-210). When phosphate fertilizer is spread on tobacco fields year after year, the concentration of Lead-210 and Polonium-210 in the soil rises. Unfortunately tobacco absorbs that quite well. Turkish cigarets are probably less dangerous because they can't afford to artificially fertilize.

          What does it mean for smokers? They inhale polonium into their lungs and those atoms disintegrate in their lungs with no skin layer to protect them. Tar condensate is probably not the main reason for cancer, rather Polonium.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gronda Gronda Rangdo!

  10. Winkypop Silver badge
    Joke

    Ice Age

    So that's what happened to the acorn...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Title:

    Aging nuts admired by scientists. / Irradiated seed to prove fertile.

    1. Richard Chirgwin (Written by Reg staff)

      Aging nuts admired by scientists ...

      I wish I'd said that!

      Richard Chirgwin

      1. EddieD

        Re: Aging nuts admired by scientists ...

        I'm surprised no-one tried "Jurassic Bark" as a possibility too...

      2. DuncanL
        Joke

        "I wish I'd said that!"

        “You will, Oscar, you will!"

  12. David Cantrell
    Boffin

    But what's 70 Grays in El Reg units?

    1. Poor Coco
      Thumb Up

      In El Reg maths...

      70 Grays = 60 Cyans + 45 Magentas + 30 Yellows.

  13. TRT Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Ancient nuts...

    I guess they called in a specialist to handle them. Like Catherine Zeta Jones, for instance.

  14. Paul Johnston

    More interesting!

    Have they found the squirrel which lost the nut and ended up in the permafrost itself?

    Now bringing that back to life would be interesting!

  15. Rudy
    Joke

    That's some squirrel

    What kind of a squirrel can bury his nuts 38 meters underground??

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: That's some squirrel

      A 30 thousand year old one?

    2. Tom 13

      Re: That's some squirrel

      I take it you've never seen Skrat in action then? For him 38 meters is a mere trifle.

  16. Luc Le Blanc
    Happy

    Any squirrel DNA on that seed?

    We could clone that squirrel and recreate the scene ;)

  17. mhenriday
    Big Brother

    But, Richard, surely this is false science,

    like that those dastardly climatologists attempt to foist upon us innocents ! This is merely a transparent attempt to convince people that the Siberian permafrost is in the process of melting due to so-called «global warming» ! Good that that we have (at least for the present) the Heartland Institute (http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/02/20/heartland-launches-legal-action-against-climate-change-bloggers-journos/) to fund knights in shining armour to defend our (corporate) interests....

    Henri

  18. Death_Ninja
    Boffin

    No Tom Baker fans out there?

    Seeds of Doom anyone?

    These are obviously from the Krynoid!

  19. The Grump
    Black Helicopters

    Hmmm...

    Then why are the Russian scientists acting so strange now ? Sleeping and waking at exactly the same time, eating meals at the same time, eating the same foods, even if they hated the food before, even breathing and blinking in unison ? It can'tttttttttttttttttttttttt

    Soree. Above entirly normul. Nothin to wury about. Ignor prior wurds. Do human things. Seeds harmles. Hav nice dai.

    1. Graham Lockley

      Re: Hmmm...

      >Soree. Above entirly normul. Nothin to wury about. Ignor prior wurds. Do human things. Seeds harmles. Hav nice dai.

      Just dont go to sleep ? Esp next to green poddy type thing ?

  20. BarkingMad

    From one who knows his onions

    I have designed a few commercial varieties.

    I think not.

    I think not.

    I think not.

  21. JeffyPooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Bringing back the Wooly Mammoth

    Just double-check that: 1) it doesn't eat humans, 2) fly, and 3) is bullet-proof.

    Otherwise, I'm all in favour of restocking.

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