Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Frozen moss buried in Antarctica for more than 1,500 years starting to grow again in laboratory

Monday 17 March 2014

Frozen moss that had been buried in the Antarctic permafrost for more than 1,500 years and showed no sign of life has started to grow again in a laboratory, scientists said.

The moss last grew before the rise of the Roman Empire but its long period of being frozen solid in the ground did not appear to affect its ability to regenerate itself once it was defrosted, the researchers found.

It is the longest period of time that frozen plants have been able to survive. Previously, moss was known to survive being frozen for about 20 years – surviving for a millennium or more suggests the plants may be able to survive an ice age, scientists said.

Samples of the plant were recovered from Signy Island in Antarctica by drilling into a frozen bank of moss that scientists estimated to be at least 2,000 years old. Carbon dating suggested the samples were at least 1,530 years old.

When the moss samples were carefully thawed out in the laboratory, the plants began to grow again from their existing shoots or rhizoids, said Peter Convey of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge.

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