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Earth Science

Researchers Regenerate 400-Year-Old Frozen Plants 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-are-they-in-a-salad? dept.
Several readers sent word of a group of University of Alberta researchers, who were exploring the edge of the Teardrop Glacier in northern Canada when they noticed a 'greenish tint' coming out from underneath the glacier. It turned out to be a collection of bryophytes, which likely flourished there the last time the land in that area was exposed to sunlight before the Little Ice Age. They collected samples of plants estimated to be 400 years old, and the researchers were able to get them to sprout new growths in the lab (abstract). "The glaciers in the region have been receding at rates that have sharply accelerated since 2004, at about 3-4m per year. ... Bryophytes are different from the land plants that we know best, in that they do not have vascular tissue that helps pump fluids around different parts of the organism. They can survive being completely desiccated in long Arctic winters, returning to growth in warmer times, but Dr La Farge was surprised by an emergence of bryophytes that had been buried under ice for so long. 'When we looked at them in detail and brought them to the lab, I could see some of the stems actually had new growth of green lateral branches, and that said to me that these guys are regenerating in the field, and that blew my mind.'"
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Researchers Regenerate 400-Year-Old Frozen Plants

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  • Monsanto (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ..and Monsanto will patent those plants and sue anyone who has anything to do with them in 3.. 2.. 1..
    • What?!?! You can't patent DNA!
      • Patients have had their DNA patented in the US by companies/researchers, and denied the right to grant others access to it.

        • Patients have had their DNA patented in the US by companies/researchers, and denied the right to grant others access to it.

          Do you have a link to this? Did the patient grant this? Or was it patented w/o their permission (not that it makes too much of a difference)? I realize that the patent thing is really out of whack, particularly regarding DNA, software, drugs, etc. But if a company can patent your DNA and claim legal ownership w/o your permission; we have gone down the slippery slope in a rocket powered sled and broken through the ground at the bottom, passed through the crust, mantle and outer core and are floating in magm

          • Doesn't the mantle hold most of the magma? If we're in the inner core aren't we in solid metal?

            • Doesn't the mantle hold most of the magma? If we're in the inner core aren't we in solid metal?

              Nope. That's the outer core actually. The mantle is mostly rock with a few pockets of magma. Regardless, I was going for humor more so than geological accuracy.

              • I'm sure you know I was just trying to be a dick :D.
                You did say THROUGH the outer core implying we were in the inner core or beyond though.
                Unfortunately the textbooks in middle school (the last time anything geology related is mentioned) show an illustration of the crust as solid rock, the mantle as solid magma, the outer core as dense magma, and the inner core as solid iron. Damn you public school system you've failed me again.

                • I'm sure you know I was just trying to be a dick :D.

                  That's considered being friendly on /. ;-)

                  You did say THROUGH the outer core implying we were in the inner core or beyond though.

                  True, but I thought it sounded funnier that way.

                  Unfortunately the textbooks in middle school (the last time anything geology related is mentioned) show an illustration of the crust as solid rock, the mantle as solid magma, the outer core as dense magma, and the inner core as solid iron. Damn you public school system you've failed me again.

                  Don't get me started on public education. I have a 10 year old in school who questions everything. Fortunately she's much better at keeping her mouth shut (at school) than I was at her age. She's just about to the point that she realizes that there are times when the "right answer" is not always the best answer.

                  When I was in school the text books were not updated as often as they have to be now. Most of the science te

  • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:25PM (#43844691) Journal

    If the glacier didn't melt some, I'm sure they'd never have found those plants.

    • by Synerg1y (2169962)

      what exactly does finding the plants do for us?

      • While there may not be any imediate or obvious benefit for you (or anyone) at present. Every bit of knowledge and understanding that we can gather about ourselves, and our planet is beneficial.

        • by Synerg1y (2169962)

          The downside is the lack of glacier, I'd rather have the glacier.

          • by NekSnappa (803141)
            Not that I'm a warming denier, or think that things shouldn't be done to make our species impact on the environment smaller. But you do realize that there wasn't a glacier there 400 years ago right?
          • Yeah that's the downside- having melted the glacier, just so we can see a plant, was a bad idea. (Well, in the deal we were also able to drive to work and heat our houses and stuff. And minor details obviously deserve a little of our consideration.) But obviously these were just side effects from when we let our cryogenic botany crowd bully our fossil fuel industry around. They said "Dig up all the filth from the Carboniferous Era that you can find, and burn it fast. Then we can melt this glacier and defros
      • If this were an X-Files episode, I'm sure they'd do something to us instead. Something horrible.
      • by lennier (44736)

        what exactly does finding the plants do for us?

        Well, they're probably a great source of oil.

        And as long as you keep them chained up, avoid their whip-stings, and don't look at all those bright lights in the sky, I'm sure everything will be perfectly okay.

      • by MiniMike (234881)

        Soon, due to the combined effects of global warming, genetic engineering, patented crops, and similar issues, glacier-revealed plants will be our only source of food.

    • by pubwvj (1045960) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @05:34PM (#43845203)

      Global warming is a very good thing. It is a heck of a lot better than the alternative. We are coming out of a cold period. Cold is bad. Warm is good. During the warming periods is when biodiversity has exploded and life has bloomed. It is during the cold periods that we've gotten the worst of the great extinctions.

      The problem is that people are used to the very recent planetary temperature setting and built their cities down too close to the ocean. The oceans have gone up and down over time. Now they're rising again and the big cities which have too many people in them are going to suffer. This is unfortunate but that is how normal climate change operates.

      The real problem is not climate change. Climate change is normal. The Earth has been much warmer and much colder in the past. The real problem is toxic pollution that mankind is spewing into the environment, untested genomes that are being spilled into nature (GMOs) and all the waste. Global warming is just a distraction. Things like Earth Day, Carbon Credits and cloth shopping bags are just feel good measures that fail to address the real issues while letting people get a false sense that they have done something to 'save the world' when in reality they've done nothing.

      Focus.

      • by Jagasian (129329) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @09:54PM (#43846827)

        You know enough to be dangerous. Yes biodiversity was higher in the distance past when the Earth was warmer, but even more telling is what happened in the distant past when the Earth warmed at a very fast rate. The Permian–Triassic extinction was likely caused by an approximately 10 degree warming event that took place over tens of thousands of years. That lead to the extinction of almost all life on Earth. The current warming trend that the Earth is in is much faster than the trend associated with the Permian-Triassic extinction, and the obvious concern should be that this will lead to an even larger extinction event than the Permian-Triassic extinction. Plants can only migrate at a certain rate. Similarly for animals. Most won't be able to adapt, causing ecosystem failures. Maybe 99.9% of life will go extinct, who knows. Let's just dive right in!

        Random fact: You can easily spot the Permian-Triassic sediment deposits because there are two layers: (i) the Permian layer is loaded with fossils, and (ii) the next layer has only sand stone. Why? When almost all of the plants and animals die, all that is left is a giant dust bowl.

        • Plants can only migrate at a certain rate. Similarly for animals. Most won't be able to adapt, causing ecosystem failures.

          Indeed. This is why, from the start, some scientists argued that we should be coming up with mitigation strategies, since they did not believe that mankind would be able to get its collective act together and slow, let alone reverse, global warming/climate change.

          They were howled down by the majority of activists, who claimed - understandably - that such a strategy would just give a cop-out to both the denyers and world leaders. Still, despite some glacially-slow progress, nothing much has been done.

          Looks

        • by Xest (935314)

          The worst part is he seems to miss the obvious with his comment as follows:

          "During the warming periods is when biodiversity has exploded and life has bloomed. It is during the cold periods that we've gotten the worst of the great extinctions."

          If he stopped and thought about it for a second, he'd ask the obvious question - why, if we're undergoing a period of rapid warming, are we also undergoing one the most rapid extinction events man has known? By his logic we should be seeing an increase in biodiversity

        • by fyngyrz (762201)

          Plants can only migrate at a certain rate.

          On their own. With human help, they can migrate faster than any anticipated climate change. We can move, and start generations of, any plant you can imagine, in just one season. If we have a reason to. So this claim is completely deceptive. There's no reason whatsoever to anticipate a problem here.

          Similarly for animals.

          "Similar" only in the sense that there is a limit; they can certainly migrate much faster than any anticipated rate of climate change, even on the

      • by FhnuZoag (875558)

        Global warming is a very good thing. It is a heck of a lot better than the alternative. We are coming out of a cold period. Cold is bad. Warm is good. During the warming periods is when biodiversity has exploded and life has bloomed. It is during the cold periods that we've gotten the worst of the great extinctions.

        It boggles me that people can repeat mantras like that and get modded up as insightful. 'Bad'? 'Good'? Can you not pause for a moment to consider 'for whom'?

        Yeah, sure, a nice warm humid environment is awesome for a very biodiverse set of tropical diseases. It is surely also worth it to lose much of the existing local ecosystems to be replaced by a set of warm-climate invaders which will, over subsequent millions of years, generate new biodiversity.

        I'm *sure* this is what everyone wants.

      • by fredrated (639554)

        You are a fool and a tool.

      • by riverat1 (1048260)

        The oceans have gone up and down over time. Now they're rising again and the big cities which have too many people in them are going to suffer.

        Actually sea levels have been remarkably stable for about the last 6,000 years, essentially since we started building port cities.

    • But wait, the Global Warming alarmists keep insisting that these glaciers always existed, and never were gone before Modern Man! IF these plants existed before the Glaciers then ... the earth ... was once warmer than it is now ... and all life didn't perish in the heat. I'm afraid that the cry "earth is warming" cry is misleading at best. The goal of Global Warming (or Cooling if you're from the 70's) is singular, control of humans by the elites.

      Who knows, global warming may be good for life on earth, allow

  • Misleading title (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:36PM (#43844759)

    No action by the scientists led to the observed regeneration. In fact, they were shocked to discover it. The actual series of events was that plants were recovering and growing on their own, a science team noticed things looked greener than expected in recently-uncovered tundra, and upon further study confirmed that flora covered by glaciers for hundreds of years were sending out new growth.

    So it's not "Researchers regenerate ..."; it should be "Researchers notice 400-year-old frozen plants buried under glacier regenerating"

    Even the word regenerate isn't really correct. The real title should be "Researchers find frozen plants buried under glacier for 400 years still alive, sending out new growth."

  • Old weed (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rixel (131146) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:42PM (#43844805)

    To bad they weren't found to be over 2000 years old. Could have called that the original BC bud.

  • Or is the climate finally returning to normal? The answer depends on politics!
  • which likely flourished there the last time the land in that area was exposed to sunlight before the Little Ice Age.

    So, this makes it sound like it was a climate change - an ice age - that caused this area to get totally covered in ice, right? But isn't one of the major concerns about the proposed AGW/CC that said ice is melting (presumption: it shouldn't)?

    I realize maybe we could argue about the rate of change, but didn't the previous ice ages ... kinda ... supposedly happen rather quickly, too?

    Truth be told, my views are significantly different than the above, ha. But I'm curious how this works out, since I believe t

    • by gznork26 (1195943)

      The Little Ice Age was what happened the last time the Gulf Stream stopped. It was the reason why some artists had painted ordinary-looking scenes of people out on the ice of their lake -- something that had not happened before in those places. The North Atlantic gyre can be stopped by the addition of too much fresh water from melting ice, because it is the difference in salinity that drives the currents and the upwelling from the depths. We live on a planet with a lot of interconnected systems that rely on

    • by Xest (935314) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @06:40AM (#43848781)

      "I realize maybe we could argue about the rate of change, but didn't the previous ice ages ... kinda ... supposedly happen rather quickly, too?"

      This isn't something you can simply write off with "I suppose we could...". There are different scales of quickly. Slow changes in the past have seen changes of a few degrees over many millions of years, some of the faster events have seen changes of a few degrees over tens to hundreds of thousands of years.

      We're seeing a few degrees change over hundreds of years. That's a problem and something largely unprecedented in Earth's history without there being an obvious outside factor such as a massive meteor impact or similar. We'd know about it already if one of those were the cause, in fact no, we probably wouldn't know about it because we'd all be dead already. You can see similar events in periods of high volcanic activity and so forth also, or through noticeable solar changes but the problem is we can't find any of these that correlate with the issue either.

      So therein lies the problem, the only thing we can find that correlates with the problem is us. Maybe something else is to blame and we don't know what yet, but realistically, given the rate of change, history tells us that whatever causes this much change isn't hard to find, and again, the only easy to find possibility is once more, us.

      For this kind of change you need a global event, and what in the world at the moment is the only thing we can see producing measurable releases of gases altering the consistency of the atmosphere which is demonstrably a cause of increase temperature? There are no large chains of volcanos, there are no meteor impacts, the only thing we can find is is us.

    • by Lithdren (605362)

      The great part is you're right, life will go on.

      What morons like you seem to miss is, its not a given that human beings will be able to survive. So yeah, I guess you're right, if you dont mind possibly killing off the entire human race.

  • But I have it on good authority that +3 degrees C is pretty much going to kill us all?

  • I hope these things taste better than Arugula...

  • So despite all the global warming hullabaloo, the earth still has not recovered fully from the pre-industrial little ice age.
  • by azav (469988)

    Get out of my freezer!

  • ...but Little Ice Age Garden is a decent consolation prize.

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