New York University Abu Dhabi researchers have successfully sequenced the genome of a 2,000-year-old extinct date palm tree at the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology of Abu Dhabi.

Gulf Business reported that the finding was made by Michael Purugganan, a NYUAD Professor of Biology, together with his colleagues, in collaboration with researchers from France and Israel.

The study investigators used seeds that were recovered previously from archaeological sites in the Southern Levant region, which carbon is dated back to the fourth century BCE, a second century CE.

Through the germination of seeds, the study authors were able to carry out sequencing of samples and employ this genome data to further investigate the genetics of the date palms identified as "Judean date palms."

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Science Times - Ancient Date Palm Tree Genomes Germinated from 2,000-Year-Old Seeds
(Photo: Balaram Mahalder on Wikimedia Commons)
Date palm tree

'Phoenix Theophrastus'

The study investigators were able to subsequently explore and find out how these plants developed over time.  As a result, they discovered that such date palms that originated in the Eastern Mediterranean had roots in other gene types identified as 'Phoenix Theophrastus,' which, in turn, originates from Crete, as well as other Greek Islands and Turkey.

This, as indicated in the study entitled "The genomes of ancient date palms germinated from 2,000 y old seeds," and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is an outcome of hybridization between species and shows Roman influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Through the revival of biological material such as sprouting the earliest seeds from archeological, paleontological sites, or historical collections, genomes of lost populations cannot only be studied. But in some instances, it also rediscovers genes that may have been extinct in contemporary varieties, explained Professor Purugganan.

The professor also noted that they are fortunate that the date palm seeds discovered can live a long period of time. In this particular instance, over 2,000 years, and germinate with slight DNA damage, in dry environs of the region.

This approach of the resurrection genomics, explained Purugganan, is an unusually effective method to examine both genetics and evolution, and possibly extinct species like Judean date palms.

Judean Date Palms

In February 2020, STARCTMAG.COM reported that Louis L Borick Natural Medicine Research Center in Jerusalem's Sarah Sallon, together with her colleagues previously grew a single date palm tree also called Phoenix dactylifera, from one of the seeds. As of that article's posting, the team had already managed to grow six more.

The ancient seeds were prepared by having them soaked in water, adding hormones that stimulate germination and rooting, then eventually, planting them in the soil in a quarantined place.

The research team utilized radiocarbon dating to expose the seven seeds were all approximately 2,000 years old. Genetic analysis revealed that many of these seeds originated from female date palms that were pollinated by male palms coming from different sites.

This suggested that the ancient Judean people who lived in the said place at that time and cultivated the trees made use of sophisticated plant breeding methods.

According to history about the dates germinating from the palms in this area have described their large size, sweet taste, and medicinal properties.

Related information about date palm tree pollination is shown on S.G.E.L's YouTube video below:

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