De-extinction of plants from herbarium specimens

Many plants have gone extinct in their natural habitat, but persist as samples preserved in herbaria around the globe. The existance of these samples raises questions about the possibility of using them to “bring back to life” these species, for example, by germinating the seeds or spores available in the herbarium material. However, there is no agreement about the availability of this approach or practical guidelines for implementing it. Albani Rocchetti and colleagues contribute to these efforts by providing a methodology for prioritizing taxa in which this technique has a higher chance of success. The authors create the DEXSCO (de-extinction score) index, which combines information on collection year, seed longevity, and desiccation tolerance. After estimating the index for 361 globally extinct species, the authors identified the top 50 species with the highest probability of being recovered. Notably, most of these species are from the Fabaceae, Malvaceae, Asteraceae, Amaranthaceae and Campanulace families, demonstrating the potential of this technique for these clades. It should be noted, however, that protocols for germinating plant material extracted from herbaria are still required. Even so, this research provides a hopeful starting point for recovering some of the species that humanity has lost. (Summary by Carlos A. Ordóñez-Parra @caordonezparra) Nature Plants 10.1038/s41477-022-01296-7