400-Year-Old Plants Revived As Glacier Melts

By Jessica Rawden 2013-05-29 14:12:20
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Samples of several plants have begun to grow in the wake of a receding glacier. The results seemed incomprehensible at first, but after several weeks of laboratory growth, scientists have confirmed the plant varieties are at least 400 years old.

The plants were first discovered when scientists began studying the Canadian Teardrop Glacier that has shown a sharp decline in size since 2004. Discolorations were seen across the area, and eventually even some surprising green areas were noted. To test the viability of the plants, scientists collected examples of the bryophyte species and brought them into the lab to see if the plants were indeed, returning from the dead.

They were. The types of plants found have long been known for their regenerative properties, as they do not have vascular tissue and have been shown to survive cold times, flourishing when the weather returns to warmer times. However, according to what researcher Dr. Catherine La Farge told BBC News, it was a surprise to see plants growing after spending numerous years underneath a glacier.
"When we looked at them in detail and brought them to the lab, I could see some of the stems actually had new growth of green lateral branches, and that said to me that these guys are regenerating in the field, and that blew my mind.

Plants have shown a remarkable ability to survive and thrive under unique circumstances and via unique methods. While 400-year-old plants returning from the dead is quite unusual, its also an incredible discovery. The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on Tuesday and you can read more via the site.

Photo Credit@ Shutterstock/ Saraporn Bamrungchart
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