Oldest viable seed
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There are several candidates for the oldest viable seed:
- The oldest carbon-14-dated seed that has grown into a viable plant was Silene stenophylla (narrow-leafed campion), an Arctic flower native to Siberia. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed an age of 31,800 ±300 years for the seeds. In 2007, more than 600,000 frozen mature and immature seeds were found buried in 70 squirrel hibernation burrows 38 metres (125 ft) below the permafrost near the banks of the Kolyma River. Believed to have been buried by Arctic ground squirrels, the mature seeds had been damaged to prevent germination in the burrow, however, three of the immature seeds contained viable embryos. Scientists extracted the embryos and successfully germinated plants in vitro which grew, flowered and created viable seeds of their own. The shape of the flowers differed from that of modern S. stenophylla with the petals being longer and more widely spaced than modern versions of the plant. Seeds produced by the regenerated plants germinated at a 100% success rate, compared with 90% for modern plants. Calculations of the γ radiation dose accumulated by the seeds since burial gave a reading of 0.07 kGy, the highest maximal dose recorded for seeds that have remained viable.
- The oldest mature seed that has grown into a viable plant was a Judean date palm seed about 2,000 years old, recovered from excavations at Herod the Great's palace on Masada in Israel. It was germinated in 2005. (For more details refer to Judean date palm: Germination of 2000-year-old seed).
- The third oldest viable seed recorded is the carbon-14-dated 1,300-year-old sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China in 1995.
- In December, 2009, a Turkish newspaper reported a claim that a 4,000 year-old lentil had been successfully germinated. As of January 2010[update] this has not been confirmed by radiocarbon dating, and does not appear to have been reported in an academic journal.
- The "1500 Year Old Cave Bean" is a variety of bean that have been alleged to descend from 3 beans found in a sealed clay pot during an excavation at an Anasazi settlement. The settlement appeared to date to the 6th century A.D., but the seeds were not carbon dated.
- There is a persistent myth that seeds from Egyptian tombs with ages of over 3,000 years were viable. The myth was reportedly started by scam artists selling "miracle seed" designed to capitalize on European Egyptomania of the 1800s. In 1897, the claims were tested by the British Museum's director of Egyptian antiquities, E. A. Wallis Budge. Budge provided genuine 3,000-year-old tomb-seeds to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to plant under controlled conditions. The test resulted in none germinating. In 1922 a pea found in Tutankhamen's tomb supposedly germinated and was soon introduced as a new variety, but historians and horticultural experts believe that the origin was a fraud and that the pea was actually bought from a vendor at a Cairo market.
- In 1954 an Arctic lupine seed (Lupinus arcticus), in glacial sediments believed to be 10,000 years old or older, was found in the Yukon Territory. The seed was germinated in 1966. New dating techniques revealed that the seeds were not 10,000 years old as believed.
- Yashina, S.; Gubin, S.; Maksimovich, S.; Yashina, A.; Gakhova, E.; Gilichinsky, D. (March 2012). "Regeneration of whole fertile plants from 30,000-y-old fruit tissue buried in Siberian permafrost". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109 (10): 4008–4013. Bibcode:2012PNAS..109.4008Y. doi:10.1073/pnas.1118386109. PMC 3309767. PMID 22355102.
- Kaufman, Rachel 32,000-Year-Old Plant Brought Back to Life—Oldest Yet National Geographic Society News February 21, 2012
- Plant grown from 30,000 year-old seeds ABC Science February 22, 2012
- Sallon et al; Solowey, E.; Cohen, Y.; Korchinsky, R.; Egli, M.; Woodhatch, I.; Simchoni, O.; Kislev, M. (2008-06-13). "Germination, Genetics, and Growth of an Ancient Date Seed". Science 320 (5882): 1464. doi:10.1126/science.1153600. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
- John Roach (2005-11-22). "2,000-Year-Old Seed Sprouts, Sapling Is Thriving". National Geographic. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
A sapling germinated earlier this year from a 2,000-year-old date palm seed is thriving, according to Israeli researchers who are cultivating the historic plant. "It's 80 centimeters [3 feet] high with nine leaves, and it looks great," said Sarah Sallon, director of the Hadassah Medical Organization's Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center (NMRC) in Jerusalem.
- Clara Moskowitz (2008-06-12). "Extinct Tree From Christ's Time Rises From the Dead". LiveScience. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
Carbon dating of the seeds found at Masada revealed that they date from roughly the time of the ancient fortress' siege, in A.D. 73. The seeds were found in storage rooms, and appear to have been stockpiled for the Jews hiding out against the invading Romans. ... The seeds were excavated about 40 years ago, along with skeletons of those who died during the siege. Since then, the seeds had been languishing in a drawer until Sallon and her team decided to attempt to grow them anew. ... Though a few trees have been planted from seeds that are rumored to be older than the Masada ones, the Methuselah tree holds the record for the oldest directly dated seed to be germinated. Scientists determined its age from control seeds taken from the same batch, and from shell fragments from the sprouted seed itself.
- Steven Erlanger (2005-06-12). "After 2,000 Years, a Seed From Ancient Judea Sprouts". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
Israeli doctors and scientists have succeeded in germinating a date seed nearly 2,000 years old. The seed, nicknamed Methuselah, was taken from an excavation at Masada, the cliff fortress where, in A.D. 73, 960 Jewish zealots died by their own hand, rather than surrender to a Roman assault. The point is to find out what was so exceptional about the original date palm of Judea, much praised in the Bible and the Koran for its shade, food, beauty and medicinal qualities, but long ago destroyed by the crusaders.
- Shen-Miller et al; Mudgett, M. B.; William Schopf, J.; Clarke, S.; Berger, R. (1995). "Exceptional seed longevity and robust growth: Ancient sacred lotus from China". American Journal of Botany 82 (11): 1367–1380. doi:10.2307/2445863. JSTOR 2445863.
- Shen-Miller et al (2002). "Long-living lotus: germination and soil gamma-irradiation of centuries-old fruits, and cultivation, growth, and phenotypic abnormalities of offspring". American Journal of Botany. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
Sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) has been cultivated as a crop in Asia for thousands of years. An ~1300-yr-old lotus fruit, recovered from an originally cultivated but now dry lakebed in northeastern China, is the oldest germinated and directly 14C-dated fruit known. In 1996, we traveled to the dry lake at Xipaozi Village, China, the source of the old viable fruits.
- "Ancient seed sprouts plant from the past". Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. 2009-12-16. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
- John Ruch (2003-01-16). "Is it true that wheat from ancient Egyptian tombs can still grow?". Stupid Question. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
- Matt Walker (2009-07-09). "'10,000-year-old' seeds debunked". BBC. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
New dating techniques have revealed that the seeds, which have been grown into live Arctic lupine plants, are not 10,000 years old as believed. Instead they are modern seeds which contaminated ancient rodent burrows.