Russian scientists have resurrected an Ice Age flower more than 31,000 years old, the oldest plant ever to be regenerated. It was heralded as a breakthrough that could pave the way to regenerate other species -- maybe even the extinct mammoth.
Researchers brought the little plant back to life using the ancient remains of fruits tucked away by a squirrel and buried in Siberian permafrost. Scientist Stanislav Gubin called it "a natural cryobank."
“The squirrels dug the frozen ground to build their burrows, which are about the size of a soccer ball, putting in hay first and then animal fur for a perfect storage chamber,” Gubin told the Associated Press.
The group of Russian scientists published their findings Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
Permafrost holds promise as "a cryodepository, a potential source of ancient germplasm, and a natural laboratory for studies of crypopreservation of ancient genetic resources," the researchers wrote.
In the frozen soil, they might find "an ancient genetic pool, that of preexisting life, which hypothetically has long vanished from the Earth's surface," they wrote.
Gubin told the Associated Press that if frozen tissue can survive tens of thousands of years, that might mean that mammals -- maybe even mammoths -- could someday be brought back to life.
In the video above, scientists show off the delicate flower that came back from extinction.
Video: Russian scientists have regenerated an entire plant from fruit tissues found in an ancient squirrel burrow. Credit: Associated Press