January 16, 2020 - 11:39 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The passage of time holds few changes for the Ginkgo biloba tree, commonly known as the maidenhair. For tens of millions of years and through multiple mass extinctions, this "botanical oddity" has stood unwavering, an ever-fixed "living fossil", as the world ages around it, Science Alert says.
The species is practically immortal - and that's not an exaggeration. As it turns out, individual trees can live over 1,000 years (some accounts suggest 3,000 even), and now, the most detailed study to date suggests their lifespan is theoretically unlimited.
While ageing and death are a natural part of being alive in this world, some plants like the ginkgo show few signs of growing old.
Even though these trees grow thinner annual rings as the years go on, researchers have found little difference in their ability to photosynthesise, germinate seeds, grow leaves, or resist disease compared to younger trees.
In fact, examining tissue samples from nine ginkgo trees aged up to over 600 years old, the team was unable to find any evidence of senescence, or deterioration, at all.
"In humans, as we age, our immune system begins to start to not be so good," biologist Richard Dixon from the University of North Texas told The New York Times, adding that "the immune system in these trees, even though they're 1,000 years old, looks like that of a 20-year-old."
Unlike previous studies, which have focused mainly on the ginkgo's leaves, the new research hones in on the tree's vascular cambium - a thin layer of tissue in the trunk that produces new bark and wood.
This region contains meristem cells, which are similar to stem cells in animals, although far less researched at a molecular level.