La Farge, C., Williams, K., & England, J. (2013). Regeneration of Little Ice Age bryophytes emerging from a polar glacier with implications of totipotency in extreme environments Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1304199110
This is an amazing story of the ability of mosses to survive freezing in extreme environments. It is well-known that the leafy gametophytes and even the sporophytes of some mosses can survive the winter beneath the snow pack. These findings push our thinking about how long mosses can survive frozen far beyond what they have been shown to previously tolerate. That means that cryopreservation of mosses for 100s of years is not a farfetched idea for some species!
|Figure 5b from La Farge et al 2013|
Showing a region of new moss growth growing
from plants frozen since the last Little Ice Age (LIA).
The authors bring up a number of interesting aspects to the research. Particularly I think that it really changes how I think about the colonization of plants in exposed areas post-glaciation. Not all of the plants may need to arrive from afar or recolonize from glacial refugia. Some of the bryophytes may just regrow from frozen but not dead plants.
|Figure 6c from La Farge et al 2013|
Showing a petri dish full of mosses regenerated
from frozen plants.
If you are interested in reading more about the findings and hearing an interview with Dr. La Farge check out the following pieces. (There are many more online. These are just a few of the ones that I read and liked.)
30 Second Science - A very short piece summarizing the major findings.
NPR Talk of the Nation Science Friday - An approximately 12 min long interview with the lead author.
The Edmonton Journal - 400-year-old frozen moss brought back to life in scientist’s lab
Science-News.com - Biologists Revive 400-Year-Old Plants
BBC - Centuries-old frozen plants revived
Discovery News - Zombie Plants Return from the Dead
CBC - Includes an interesting thought about sending bryophytes to Mars.