2000 Year Old Extinct Tree is No Longer Extinct

By Anupum Pant

At Herod the Great’s palace in Masada, Israel, from the year 1963 to 1965 an excavation was carried out. It was an excavation which blew everyone’s mind. As a result of this archaeological endeavour, an ancient jar containing date palm (Judean Palm) seeds was unearthed. The radio dating of these seeds confirmed that they were about 2000 years old. Like all other excavated material, the seeds too were sent into a safe storage at the  Bar-Ilan University. For the next 40 years, these seeds remained in the storage.

The seeds which were unearthed belonged to a plant which in its time had flourished for thousands of years. Around 150 AD the tree went extinct. None of them remained. However, the seeds did…

In the year 2005, a researcher, Elaine Solowey, decided to plant the seed. Elaine was pretty sure that a 2000 year old seed would be totally dead by now, and there’s a little chance it would even sprout. She went ahead anyway.

Elaine did a deep research on how to revive old seeds. Then, she first soaked them in hot water. And then in a nutrient rich solution. Finally they were put in contact with an enzymatic fertilizer.

To her surprise the seed did germinate. But when it did come out, Elaine was pretty sure that the sapling would die out. It didn’t. Although there were claims of a 32,000 year old germinated seed later in the year 2012, in its time, the Judean palm’s name had gone into the record books as the oldest seed to have ever sprouted

The tree has been named Methuselah after the oldest person named in the Old Testament of the Bible. Today the plant still continues to grow and has even made its first flowers.

[More about it]

Appreciating Ants and Their Counting Skills

By Anupum Pant

Success = Ants

Ants are arguably the most successful multi-cellular organisms to have ever existed on earth. The first ants on earth started appearing long before humans, even before dinosaurs – about 120 million years from now. Since then, they have even survived a mass extinction event (Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event) which wiped off all the dinosaurs from the face of our planet.

Sheer Number

Except Antarctica, the Arctic, and some other remote islands, ants have spread into almost every other part of the land. In fact, today, there are so many ants in the world that for each human being on the planet, at any point of time, there are about 1.5 billion living ants – about 10 thousand trillion ants in total! Of these 8000 kinds of ants that exist, only 10% of the species have been studied.

Collective intelligence

Ants, individually aren’t very bright. But they live in vast colonies that can include upto 50 million individuals in a single colony. Each one of them can contribute their own intelligence to the group, to form a huge brain – a “collective intelligence” of a super-organism. Just like each of our neurons in our brains work individually to form an intelligent brain.

For example, it is known that each of the fire ant’s exoskeleton is made up of a material that repels water. Together, these ants can take advantage of this blessing to survive floods. It has been seen that several hundreds of ants can, within seconds, assemble into a raft that floats on water for a long time. They don’t need your boat Dexter.

Their homes

Ants are able to build massive underground cities. Some scientists have tried pouring molten aluminum or concrete, and digging into their underground cities to study their structure. The results were incredible. A colossal network of well ventilated highways and side-roads was found connecting their colonies. It seemed as if the whole structure was designed by a single master-mind. [Video]

And they can also count

In the arid deserts where the winds are powerful enough to blow away the chemical trails marked by ants, they use their in-built pedometers (step counting machines) to find their way back home. [Video]