Students Bring a Long Extinct Squash Back to Life From 800-Year-Old Seeds


It’s not every day there’s an opportunity to regenerate an extinct species.  But that’s just the kind of opportunity a group of students from Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Canada got.

And they got to do it with a squash.  But how?

It began with an archeological dig on First Nations’ land.  The archeologists unearthed a clay vessel containing the seeds of a species of squash estimated to be about 800 years old.  The seeds wound up in the hands of the students who then successfully transformed them into a healthy squash plant.

brian-etkin.jpg.838x0_q80These students don’t plan on stopping there.  They are going to use the seeds from the new plant to grow more.  According to APTN National News, their plan is to never let this squash go extinct again.

Brian Etkin (see picture on left), Coordinator of the Garden of Learning in Winnipeg, talked about what the squash means to the community, saying, “This squash is representative of a tribe of a large community and everybody in that community having a place, and food being a right of citizenship.”

Etkin’s summarization of the school’s effort to bring a lost relic of nature back into the cycle of life was apt.  Something important was entrusted to these students and they made the most of it through a strong communal effort.

The squash plant also makes one wonder about the tribe that stored the seeds.  Were they planning on using them?  Or was their misplacement a deliberate act for posterity?  Whether it was the former, or merely a failed attempt at storage, the seeds have not gone to waste.

Anywhere from 1% to 10% of all species go extinct each year.  That’s between 200 and 2,000 species.  It’s nice to know that for once, we’ve gotten to push back on the opposite end of the spectrum.

It shows that this squash isn’t just a plant.  It’s also a statement about making the most of second chances.  Something that got wiped out, now once again has the chance to flourish.

And as Etkin said, we must also see the squash as a representation of the property and food everyone in a community should be given without question.