Musing on resurrecting extinct plants.

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bjn
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Musing on resurrecting extinct plants.

Post by bjn » Tue Oct 06, 2020 10:41 pm

I was listening to the Our Fake History podcasts on Rapa Nui/Easter Island and they covered the extinction of the native palm trees. Peeps have tracked the historical decline of the palm by examining pollen in various layers over time, which got me to thinking.

Would it be possible to partly resurrect a species by taking pollen from an extinct species and using to fertilise a close still living species to create a 50:50 hybrid. Take that hybrid and fertilise it with another sample of pollen from the extinct species, 75:25. Do it again, and again and again until you get something genetically quite close to the species what is no more. Would this be a thing that could be done?

I haven’t don’t any plant biology beyond high school stuff and general reading since then, so I’ve no real idea what the pitfalls might be beyond the obvious of having a supply of viable pollen and a finding a close enough species. Do plants have the equivalent of mitochondrial DNA only from the female of the species? That would limit how close you could get. Anything else?

Also, how long does pollen remain viable for? How much do you need for this to work?

Chris Preston
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Re: Musing on resurrecting extinct plants.

Post by Chris Preston » Fri Nov 06, 2020 10:35 am

In theory this is possible, well at least to get something close to the original species. It is how, in the other direction, new traits can be brought into crops.

Biggest downfalls is that cross species pollination can have very low success. Occasionally it is high in the order of 10%+, but more often you are looking at doing things like embryo rescue and tissue culture to keep the cross alive. So lots of pollen could be needed. Second downfall is that pollen quickly loses viability, so ancient pollen may not have any genetic material left.
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bjn
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Re: Musing on resurrecting extinct plants.

Post by bjn » Fri Nov 06, 2020 7:25 pm

Chris Preston wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 10:35 am
In theory this is possible, well at least to get something close to the original species. It is how, in the other direction, new traits can be brought into crops.

Biggest downfalls is that cross species pollination can have very low success. Occasionally it is high in the order of 10%+, but more often you are looking at doing things like embryo rescue and tissue culture to keep the cross alive. So lots of pollen could be needed. Second downfall is that pollen quickly loses viability, so ancient pollen may not have any genetic material left.
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Bird on a Fire
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Re: Musing on resurrecting extinct plants.

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Nov 06, 2020 8:08 pm

bjn wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 10:41 pm
Do plants have the equivalent of mitochondrial DNA only from the female of the species?
There's DNA in chloroplasts, which has a similar matrilinear inheritance pattern: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chloroplast_DNA. That's kind of to be expected, as both mitochondria and chloroplasts originated from endosymbiotic bacteria, and in both cases a lot of functional genes have been transferred to the nucleus.

I don't know to what extent that would affect resurrecting extinct plants, though.

There was a recent paper analysing Himalayan Balsam in the UK using cpDNA analysis, for example: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-67871-0
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