In the new study, scientists were the first to succeed in sequencing the plant’s genome from ancient germinated seeds. They are leftover from a previously extinct date palm – Phoenix dactylifera L – that grew on Earth over 2,000 years ago.
Researchers at the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at New York University in Abu Dhabi have successfully sequenced the genome of a previously extinct variety of Phoenix dactylifera. This type of palm grew more than 2 thousand years ago. Phoenix dactylifera L seeds are extracted from archaeological sites in the southern Levant region and radiocarbon dated from the 4th century BC to the 2nd century AD.
Scientists germinated seeds, creating new viable plants. Then they sequenced the genome of already germinated samples of ancient plants and used the data to study the genetics of previously extinct date palms.
Thus, scientists for the first time managed to sequence the genome of an extinct plant.
The authors of the work noted that they were “lucky that date palm seeds can live for a long time – in this case, more than 2 thousand years – and germinate with minimal DNA damage in the dry environment of the region.” The “genomics of resurrection” approach is called by scientists “an extremely effective way of studying the genetics and evolution of past and possibly extinct species.” “By reviving biological material – ancient seeds from archaeological, paleontological sites or historical collections, we can not only study the genomes of lost populations but also rediscover genes that have already disappeared,” the scientists conclude.
Recall that date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) are one of the oldest crops cultivated in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC. e. The Kingdom of Judah, which emerged in the 11th century in the southern part of the Kingdom of Israel, is largely famous for its date groves.