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Flowers regenerated from 30,000-year-old frozen fruits, buried by ancient squirrels

February 21, 2012 Comments off

discovermagazine

Fruits in my fruit bowl tend to rot into a mulchy mess after a couple of weeks. Fruits that are chilled in permanent Siberian ice fare rather better. After more than 30,000 years, and some care from Russian scientists, some ancient fruits have produced this delicate white flower.

These regenerated plants, rising like wintry Phoenixes from the Russian ice, are still viable. They produce their own seeds and, after a 30,000-year hiatus, can continue their family line.

The plant owes its miraculous resurrection to a team of scientists led by David Gilichinsky, and an enterprising ground squirrel. Back in the Upper Pleistocene, the squirrel buried the plant’s fruit in the banks of the Kolyma River. They froze.

Over millennia, the squirrel’s burrow fossilised and was buried under increasing layers of ice. The plants within were kept at a nippy -7 degrees Celsius, surrounded by

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Bumblebee Species Decline 96 Percent

January 8, 2011 1 comment

New research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that another vitally important pollinator, the bumblebee, is in serious decline. According to the figures, there has been a shocking 96 percent decline in four major species of the bumblebee, and an up to 87 percent decrease in their overall geographic coverage.

“We provide incontrovertible evidence that multiple Bombus species have experienced sharp population declines at the national level,” explained researchers in their report. And in a phone interview with Reuters, study author Sydney Cameron from the University of Illinois, Urbana, explained that these bumblebee species are “one of the most important pollinators of native plants.”

Over the course of three years, the research team evaluated 382 different sites in 40 states, and mulled data from over 73,000 museum records. They determined that bumblebees are needed to pollinate various fruits and vegetables, and that they accomplish this task in a very unique way.

“The 50 species (of bumblebees) in the United States are traditionally associated with prairies and with high alpine vegetations,” said Cameron. “Just as important — they land on a flower and they have this behavior called buzz pollination that enables them to cause pollen to fly off the flower.”

In other words, without bumblebees and the special way in which they pollinate, entire segments of agriculture are threatened with extinction. Like honeybees and bats, bumblebees are vital in order to grow food. Without them, humanity will starve to death.

Misleadingly, many experts largely blame various pathogens, fungi and viruses for the die-offs of these pollinators, while giving only a brief mention — if any at all — to the toxic pesticides and herbicides that are increasingly being linked to things like colony collapse disorder (CCD), the name given to the mass bee die-off phenomenon. A recently leaked report, for instance, has revealed that a popular Bayer herbicide is responsible for killing off bees.