Scientists Grow Trees From Ancient Seeds
Tue, April 20, 2021

Scientists Grow Trees From Ancient Seeds

 

When a team of researchers, led by Sarah Sallon, a doctor at Hadassah Medical Center, tried to germinate seeds in 2005 from Masada, an ancient fortress in Israel, they didn’t expect the experiment would work. This is because the seeds were about 2,000 years old. But, much to their surprise, the experiment did work - they were able to grow a date tree named Methuselah. The name refers to a figure in the Bible who lived until the age of 969.

 

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

 

However, they weren’t able to properly document the growth of the tree because they weren’t expecting it to successfully grow. Thus, they conducted a second experiment where the researchers planted 32 of the best-preserved seeds in a small kibbutz in southern Israel. The seeds were collected from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Most of the specimens came from the region’s archeological sites. The researchers were more confident this time because some of the seeds were more well-preserved than others and therefore better suited for the experiment.

 

Photo Credits: All That's Interesting

 

According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, the experiment is important not only because the team could document the progress of the plant’s growth properly but also prove that their first effort wasn’t just a fluke. The study plays an important role in a better understanding of how Judean farmers cultivated the lands to grow these date palms.

 

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

 

The findings of the study published in the journal Science Advances showed that six out of 32 seeds that were planted blossomed into date palm trees. Five of the successful seeds came from either Masada or the Qumran Caves, where the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. “It’s quite remarkable this team of researchers managed to germinate seeds of that age. These ancient seeds might represent lost genetic diversity we don’t see anymore,” Oscar Alejandro Pérez-Escobar, who studies ancient dates at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, said.

 

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