1,200 years later, seed germinatesReuterLOS ANGELES -- Scientists studying the origins of life have germinated the oldest known seed ever found -- a 1,200-year-old lotus seed from China.
"A little seed that slept for more than 1,000 years sprouted in four days just like its modern sibling," plant physiologist Jane Shen-Miller, of the University of California at Los Angeles, said Monday.
Her husband, paleobiologist William Schopf, who heads UCLA's Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life, said: "It seems impossible for a plant miraculously to be brought back to life after more than 1,000 years."
In addition to the 1,200-year-old seed, three other ancient lotus seeds were germinated by the UCLA team and dated by radiocarbon techniques. One was more than 600 years old and another more than 300; the age of the fourth was not established.
The research, reported in the November issue of the American Journal of Botany, could have important implications for aging in other organisms, including humans, the scientists said.
Shen-Miller obtained seven lotus seeds from the Chinese village of Pulantien in 1982 from the Beijing Institute of Botany. She determined the dates of six of them and germinated four of them. The oldest was calculated to be 1,288 years old, give or take 271 years. The youngest was 95 years old.
She planted the 332-year-old seed in a tub in the courtyard of her home, where it sprouted many leaves, grew faster than modern lotus plants and lived for nine months.
Steven Clarke, a professor of biochemistry at UCLA, said the germinated lotus "has no weak links" and an enzyme in the 95-year-old seed -- L-isoaspartyl methyltransferase (MT) -- was found to be as robust as in a modern seed.
"Somehow these seeds have managed to fend off all age-related damage," Clarke said.