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Biotech Science

World's Oldest Tree To Be Cloned 55

Pirogoeth writes "Scientists have taken seedlings from the world's oldest tree, a 4,768-year-old bristlecone pine named Methuselah, and plan on plan on altering them to make them clones of the ancient tree. Their goal is to study them to find the secret of their longevity and to see if cloned trees can survive in different climates."
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World's Oldest Tree To Be Cloned

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  • by fingal ( 49160 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @10:45AM (#6744664) Homepage
    Not confirmed but maybe the Fortingall Yew [perthshire...ntry.co.uk] may well be older. Well worth a visit as it is in a very beautiful part of the country...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @10:48AM (#6744715)

    Memo to all y'all city folk out there in /. land: People have been cloning plants since time immemorial.

    You cut off a little piece of the branch, plop it in some potting soil, keep it wet, and in a coupla months, la voila: It's sprouted a root system!!!

    Just about 100% of all commercial plant offerings are clones [possibly grafted onto a foreign root system, which is itself likely a clone].

    • by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @01:17PM (#6746580) Homepage Journal
      In 1989, a vandal used a strong poison and nearly killed the Treaty Oak [utexas.edu], a 500-year-old Live Oak said to be the place where Stephen F. Austin signed a treaty with the local Native American tribes. Heroic efforts (funded by H. Ross Perot) went into saving the tree, but nobody knew if they would be successful.

      To preserve the tree's legacy, it was "cloned" -- several still-living branches were rooted just as the parent poster described. One of these trees is now growing next to the original [austin.tx.us]. It's clearly an exact genetic duplicate, and if that's not a clone, I don't now what is.

      I agree with the parent poster -- what's the big deal? Why can't they just cut off a branch of the Methuselah tree and root it?

      By the way, the story of the Treaty Oak has a happy ending. Despite fears that it would only be good for commemorative pen sets [kennspenns.com], the tree made a comeback, and started bearing acorns again in 1997 -- 8 years after the attack. Seedlings are now available [historictrees.org], for "just" $125 bucks.

      The poisoner, on the other hand, likely had a bit rougher time -- 9 years in a Texas state prison. No word on the fate of his acorns...
      • The poisoner, on the other hand, likely had a bit rougher time -- 9 years in a Texas state prison.

        Sigh.

        Yeah, it's a famous tree, but it's still just a freaking TREE. He'd probably have gotten a shorter term for raping and (attempted) poisoning grandma.

        Well, at least he didn't commit copyright infringment. Then his acorns would be in BIG trouble.

        -
        • What if the vandal burned one of the original copies of the Constitution? Would that be punishable in your view? Just a part of some old plant with some marks on it, after all...
          • Would that be punishable in your view?

            Hold on a second. Where did I say he shouldn't be punished? I just commented that the sentence was a bit absurd. 9 years for "attempted treeicide"?

            -
            • What sentence would you recommend in the hypothetical case I proposed?
              • What sentence would you recommend in the hypothetical case I proposed?

                I'm no fan of punishing tree-abusers more strongly than people-abusers. In fact, it really gets me mad when someone gets probation or a light sentence for killing with a car (especially if they're a football player [dallasnews.com]), but someone gets thrown in jail for putting an ostrich to sleep the old-fashioned way.

                But as far as determining an "appropriate" sentence... please keep in mind that this happened here in Texas, where justice can be a bit
    • You seem to imply that the article is uninteresting because of the methods used. The interesting part is that they're reproducing a bloody old tree. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it'll be the oldest thing ever to be 'cloned'. This is interesting, even if it is easy to do, because it'll allow all kinds of experiments that you wouldn't want to carry out on the original.
    • to study and eventually clone the world's great trees.

      So they are planning to clone 'em. The initial seedlings aren't considered full clones because...

      The seedlings aren't exact copies of Methuselah...they only contain half of the gnarled old tree's genetic materials.

      So they add more DNA to complete the process:

      the Milarchs plan to graft them with more genetic material taken from Methuselah

      I think that parts from the branch or cones would be considered offspring of the parent - it's the extra
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It's called propagation, typically through cuttings.

      Many ornamental plants are done this way.

      Specifically, all of those pretty Christmas Poinsettias are froma single mother plant.

      They find the one plant that exhibits the characteristics they like, take cuttings, make more plants, make more cuttings, etc, etc, etc.

      Most everything you see in the Garden Center at your local Home Depot are made this way.
    • The bristelocones grow at a high elevation (10,000 ft +) in dry, alkali soil. I'm not sure that traditional cloning techniques for trees will work for this variety of tree.
    • > Memo to all y'all city folk out there in /. land:
      > People have been cloning plants since time
      > immemorial.

      Memo to those who know less than everything about botany: traditional methods don't work on all plants.
    • Most flowering wisteria you see were grown from cuttings as well. If you grow one from seed, you have to wait ten years to see whether you bought one that blooms.
    • Unfortunately, this is not true. It works for only a limited number of species. Take some salix, for example, and shove it in the ground ... bingo. New salix. Try it with your average Pinus, though, and all you'll get is stakes.
  • by gooru ( 592512 )
    Oh no, it's the invasion of the cloned trees!!!!!!! Run for your lives!!!!!!
  • or something thats even older. BUt this is probably the oldest actual tree. ALthough i thought they found one in england that was older?
    • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @12:35PM (#6746054)


      > or something thats even older. BUt this is probably the oldest actual tree.

      IMO reckoning up the age of a creosote ring is a dubious comparison, due to its clonal propagation [google.com]. An analogous argument would say that microbes that "reproduce" by splitting are billions of years old, which might be true in some sense but not very interesting for comparing the "age" of a microbe to the age of a tree.

      > Although i thought they found one in england that was older?

      I vaguely recall hearing about a much older plant as well, though I can never seem to find the story when the subject comes up.

      Given human nature, there's probably a lot of nationalistic spin on who has the oldest plant, so I always take "the world's oldest plant" to mean "the oldest one that has a good PR firm in my culture".

  • Excellent. (Score:3, Funny)

    by mikelu ( 120879 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @11:27AM (#6745208)
    Now I can attain immortality through the simple process of replacing my feeble human body with enduring tree parts. Mwahahahahahahahaha.
    • you'll be burned at the stake!!

      everybody knows robots will be the future!!

      and besides, when you're a robot you still look the same.. but they only make them 5 feet tall.

      x-ray vision is a plus though.
  • Scientists have taken seedlings from the world's oldest tree, a 4,768-year-old bristlecone pine named Methuselah, and plan on plan on altering them to make them clones

    Looks like they've already gotten off to a good start, by cloning the words in the article. *rimshot*

    (Isn't anyone going to welcome our new Bristlecone masters?)
  • by Jonsey ( 593310 )
    [ scientist in forest ]

    [ bumbling around ]

    [ See REALLY LARGE tree ]

    [ Takes Sample ]

    [ Ents Crush Him, after much deliberation ]

    Fini.
  • A binary search tree or a red-black tree? Seriously, I "clone" these all the time.
  • I guess not technically called trees (then again bonsais, which tend to be pretty small, low to the ground, are really a tree/shrub grown in a pot), however here are a couple articles concerning organisms (read shrub or bush) which may be older than the Methuselah.

    http://www.death-valley.us/article652.html

    http://www.exn.ca/Stories/1996/10/21/01.asp
  • oldest plant? (Score:2, Informative)

    by mcryptic ( 196974 )
    a quick google came up with a 43,000 year old plant (Tasmanian native holly), which has already been cloned in order to save it.

    http://forests.org/archive/spacific/ausoldpl.htm [forests.org]
  • Where can I get a root kit for *that* system?
  • Hehe, there's something in the article I don't really get. Only half of the seedlings' genes were inherited from the great pine, whereas the other half came from another pine. That's like how I was made. Half of my genes are my mother's and the other half come from my dad. And I'm not a clone.

    These guys have simply grew plants from the seeds of the great pine, just as the pine would have reproduced in nature, so I don't really see the point of the whole thing, and I can't figure out why anybody feels like

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford

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