Is This Plant Really 30,000 Years Old?
A plant said to be 30,000 years old has been brought to life in Russia. A team resurrected a fruit from a rodent burrow in Siberian permafrost, getting it to grow into a whole plant that produces viable seeds. This is now the oldest age claim, by an order of magnitude, for plant material made to live again. Other scientists are startled that plant material could remain viable for so long, since cells have to repair their DNA continually.
The story was reported by the BBC News, PhysOrg, New Scientist and Live Science on February 20. The Russian team was unable to get seeds found in the burrow to sprout, but using growth hormones, coaxed “placental tissue” from a fruit to grow into an entire plant with flowers and seed-bearing fruit. The plant, Silene stenophylla, still grows in the region today. Scientists noted only slight differences from modern plants and one thought to be in a frozen state of hibernation for 28,000 to 32,000 years, from carbon dating.
The articles disagreed on whether the previous record-holder was a 1,300 year old lotus, or palm seeds from Masada prior to its destruction in 70 A.D. Reviving an organism from permafrost raises the possibility of resurrecting other plant species, and maybe even DNA from animals. Live Science asked a UCLA biologist about it. “Most plant seeds die within a few years, she said. But a few hearty species, including the 1,300-year-old lotus and S. stenophylla have built-in mechanisms that either preserve or repair the plants’ DNA.” Maybe geneticists could learn the plant’s tricks to enhance the longevity of human DNA, some think.
In a related story, Live Science reported on January 18 that archaeologists are reconstructing a Biblical garden using pollen grains found at Ramat Rahel, a hill south of Jerusalem. “Their reconstruction, which relied on analyses of excavated pollen, reveals a paradise of exotic plants,” the article said. Visitors to the palace garden would have been treated to plants such as willow, poplar, “myrtle and water lilies; native fruit trees, including grape vine, common fig and olive; and imported citron, Persian walnut, cedar of Lebanon and birch trees.” Many of these had to be imported from distant regions and would have required irrigation systems to maintain. The garden is dated to the Persian period, 5th to 6th centuries BC (2,500 years ago).
In other botany news,
- Chinese paleontologists are reconstructing an exquisitely-preserved fossil forest in Permian coal, PhysOrg reported.
- PhysOrg reported evidence of lateral gene transfer in plants, potentially confounding the construction of phylogenetic trees.
- While touting the alleged common ancestor of algae and plants, Science Daily worried about the evolutionary implications.
- A University of Arkansas biologist said that “primitive organisms are not always simple.” Did he find evolution, or devolution? “The common ancestor of Plantae was an organism with very complex cells and a complex life cycle,” [Fred] Spiegel said. While some members of the super group Plantae may have less complex cells and life cycles, this does not mean they pre-date the common ancestor. “They’re simpler because they lost parts, not because they originated that way.”
Finally, gardeners and students might benefit from seeing the underground world of plants in unprecedented detail. “Plant and computer scientists can now study the underground world of plants with more accuracy and clarity,” Science Daily reported about work at the University of Nottingham. “The revolutionary technique will improve our chances of breeding better crop varieties and increasing yields.”
Evolutionists run aground on reefs and rocks because they never question their dating scheme. Did this plant survive intact for 30,000 years? Isn’t it far more likely that it’s not anywhere near that old? We know the Ramat Rahel dates because we can corroborate them from human records. Once you go beyond written accounts, including Genesis, you’re into Storybook Land, where imagination is king. Even the radiocarbon dates are questionable and based on fallible assumptions. Nobody observed the stopwatch begin 30,000 years ago. The date is an extrapolation from present processes, provided that nothing altered the initial conditions or intervened in the meantime. There’s good reason to believe atmospheric carbon was not constant. For example, decaying carbon has been found in coal that should have been long gone based on carbon-14’s half-life.
The Russian plant story blurs the definition of fossil – an interesting anecdote for philosophers of science. Is it a fossil if it can be brought back to life? The seeds could not be revived; are they fossils, while the fruit material next to them, part of the same plant, were living organisms?’ The last three stories are more bad news for evolutionary theory. Exquisite preservation; lateral gene transfer; original complexity – none of these comport well with Darwinian assumptions. They never seem uncomfortable with the uncomportable facts that crop up.