Plant regenerates after spending 400 years under a glacier

Dr. Catherine La Farge from the University of Alberta studies non-vascular plants like mosses and liverworts, known as bryophytes. Her work took her to the Canadian Arctic where she and her team examined the plant life being uncovered by Ellesmere Island's retreating Teardrop glacier. When Teardrop glacier was advancing 400 years ago, plants were trapped underneath in, and left in a kind of suspended animation. After gathering a sample of what remained as the glacier recently retreated, La Farge was able to "revive" the mosses that had been entombed for all that time back at the lab. In this case, the moss had stopped growing, but a number of cells were well preserved enough to regenerate.

Speaking about their trip to the remote Nunavut island, La Farge said, "we were aware that there was vegetation coming out from underneath the glacier. But we had no idea that there was such a diversity of bryophytes that were coming out from underneath the glacier." How did that sucker live for centuries frozen in a glacier in the dark? La Farge says that these types of plants are programmed to survive under harsh conditions and that they would make great subjects for further research and testing.


For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter 
at @dvice or find us on Facebook

User Comments