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Australia. The largest plant in the world has been discovered. “A meadow of ribbon seaweed was created from a single seedling”

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Scientists from the University of Western Australia and Flinders University found a plant in the ocean that is 180 kilometers long and 4.5 thousand years old. This huge underwater meadow is made up of only one plant – Amphibolis antarctica.

Australian researchers have discovered the world’s largest plant that forms a vast meadow in Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage Shark Bay. This plant is Amphibolis antarcticawhich is commonly known as undersea grass. It is found in coastal waters of southern and western Australia. Scientists made this discovery when they attempted to study the genetic diversity of the grasses that cover the bottom of the bay. “We are often asked how many different plants are growing on grassy underwater meadows, and we have used genetic tools to answer these questions,” said Dr. Elizabeth Sinclair, author of a publication in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

– The answer stunned us: there was only one plant. Just enough. One plant has spread over a distance of 180 km in Shark Bay, making it the largest plant on Earth. The existing two-thousand-square-kilometer meadow of ribbon seaweed appears to have developed from a single seedling that colonized the entire area, added lead author Jane Edgeloe.

“Our seagrass has experienced many environmental changes”

Australian researchers also talk about the puzzle. The point is that the extensive plant does not reproduce sexually, and that should imply little genetic diversity that makes it difficult to adapt to difficult conditions. – Our seagrass has experienced many environmental changes. Even today, it is faced with huge fluctuations in temperature – from 17 to 30 degrees Celsius. Salinity varies from typical of seawater to twice as high. From complete darkness, the grass passes into strong sunlight. Such conditions usually mean high stress for the plant. But as you can see, the grass is doing well, said Dr. Martin Breed of Flinders University. Scientists suspect that this is due to genes well suited to the local environment. In addition to its large size, the plant is distinguished by a relatively large amount of genetic material. Her cells contain twice as many copies of chromosomes as her two-pair cousins. This is called polyploidy.

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– Whole genome duplication in polyploidy occurs when diploid parent plants form a hybrid. The new seedling contains 100 percent of each parent’s genome, instead of 50 percent as is usual, Dr. Sinclair explains. Polyploid plants are often found in harsh conditions. Not infrequently, like newly discovered grass, they are sterile, but they grow almost unlimitedly. Scientists have now planned further studies to show more precisely how the plant manages to live and develop in an unfavorable environment.

Amphibolis antarctica in Shark Bay

Rachel Austin, University of Western Australia

Shark Bay in AustraliaGoogle Maps

Main photo source: Rachel Austin, University of Western Australia



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