Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Lotus That Time Forgot: UCLA Scientists Grow Centuries-Old Seeds

"Centuries-Old Lotus Seeds Germinated by UCLA Scientists, but Show Abnormalities, Most Likely Due to Mutation-Causing Soil Radiation"
UC Newsroom, University of California (February 22, 2002)

"An international team led by UCLA scientists germinated lotus seeds nearly 500 years old from lotus fruits recovered from an ancient lotus lake in northeastern China — the first time new plants have been raised from parents so old.

" 'The cultivation of offspring from old seeds radiocarbon dated at between 200 and 500 years of age is a first in plant biology,' said UCLA research biologist Jane Shen-Miller, lead author of the research, published in the February issue of the American Journal of Botany...."

Most seeds won't last more than a year or so: lotus seeds have a reputation for being much more durable. On the other hand, these showed some abnormalities when they grew.

That "soil radioactivity" mentioned in the title isn't the sort of scary Hollywood stuff you read about: it's the natural background radiation that we don't generally notice. It doesn't affect us, as a rule. But for seeds that have been exposed for a few centuries? Yeah, I can see how the effects might add up.

For me, quite an interesting article.

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