Ancient Plants revived in glaciers for 400 years

Ancient Plants revive after been covered in glaciers for 400 years


Catherine La Farge of the University of Alberta in Canada has recently published a paper on the regeneration of plants called bryophytes that date back to the Little Ice Age, 400 to 600 years ago.

We know that ice covered regions have started to retreat fast in the last decade. The same happened to the Sverdrup Pass, a once covered with ice region in central Ellesmere island (an area around the Teardrop Glacier in the Canadian Arctic). As a result it has exposed those ancient plant communities that were later on regenerated in vitro growth experiments from the original sample material.

La Farge said that it is known that bryophytes can remain dormant for many years and can be reactivated, but to be revived after 400 years was something that nobody expected. Bryophytes are extremely resilient plants that have been on Earth for hundreds of million years. And the role in polar ecosystem colonization is very important.

Each one of the cells of a bryophyte can program itself to create an entirely new plant in the same way that stem cells do, La Farge said.

This discovery will help scientists research more on the importance of such ecosystems and improve our understanding of polar ecosystem creation and maintenance. Another harsh environment on planet Earth which could probably be found in other planets in the future, making such a knowledge valuable.

By John Black

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