400-year-old moss grows again

2013-05-29 20:30
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Ottawa - Plants entombed under ice in Canada's far north for centuries have come back to life after exposure to air and sunlight, Canadian researchers have found.

University of Alberta researcher Catherine La Farge collected what she believed to be dead mosses (or bryophytes) from the foot of a retreating glacier in Sverdrup Pass on Ellesmere Island.

Carbon dating determined the plants were 400 to 600 years old and had been entombed during the Little Ice Age that occurred between 1550 and 1850.

La Farge was then able to revive the mosses in a lab, overturning a long-held assumption that plant remains exposed by retreating polar glaciers are all dead.

Previously, new plant growth in these areas was considered the result of rapid colonisation by modern plants surrounding a glacier.

But La Farge showed the plants' resilience in research published this week in the latest issue of the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We know that bryophytes can remain dormant for many years [for example, in deserts] and then are reactivated, but nobody expected them to rejuvenate after nearly 400 years beneath a glacier," La Farge said in a statement.

In her lab, she ground up the plant materials and placed them in potting soils. Within weeks, green filaments began to sprout.

Of the 24 samples seven showed growth, successfully regenerating from the original parent material.

Mosses are hardy, having been around for 400 million years. They evolved from sea algae, paving the way for other land plants.

Unlike most other plants, mosses reproduce by cloning their cells, La Farge said.

"Any bryophyte cell can reprogram itself to initiate the development of an entire new plant. This is equivalent to stem cells in faunal systems."

Read more on:    canada  |  plants

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.