In Shark Bay, Australia’s westernmost point, seagrass beds cover the ocean floor, rippling on the ocean floor and being bitten by the dugong, a cousin of the Florida manatees. New research reveals something unexpected about seagrass. Many of them are the same individual plants that have been replicated for about 4,500 years.
Seagrass — not to be confused with kelp algae — is Poseidon ribbon weed, or Posidonia australis. Candidate Jane Edgeloe, who holds her PhD from the University of Western Australia and is the author of her dissertation, likened her appearance to green onions.
Edgeloe and his colleagues discovered it as part of a genetic survey of Posidonia grasses in different parts of Shark Bay. There, the scuba jumps into the shallows and pulls Posidonia sprouts from 10 different meadows. On land, researchers analyzed and compared grass DNA.
They published the results on Wednesday in the minutes of the Royal Society B Journal. It turns out that many of these seemingly different plants have about the same DNA. Elizabeth Sinclair, also a member of the University of Western Australia and author of the study, recalled her excitement in her lab when she realized that “it was just one plant.”
Some grasslands north of Shark Bay reproduce sexually, while other Posidonia breed by producing new shoots that diverge from the root lineage. Even the separate prairie are genetically identical, suggesting that they were once connected by amputated roots. Based on the age of the bay and the rate of seagrass growth, researchers speculated that the Shark Bay clone was about 4,500 years old.
In addition to being a clone, the grass is a hybrid of two species and appears to have two complete sets of chromosomes, a condition called ploidy. Ploidy can be fatal to animal embryos, but it can be harmless or even useful to plants. However, it can cause infertility. Many cloned grasses do not bloom and can only be propagated by continuous cloning.
This combination of extra genes and clones may have been the key to the survival of grass in the ancient times of climate change: clones gave birth to offspring because clones did not have to bother looking for companions. rice field. The extra genes may have given seagrass “the ability to cope with a wide range of climate-sensitive conditions,” he said. Sinclair.
Shark Bay Posidonia not only addressed this ancient climate change, but also spread. And it spreads. And spread it a little more.
Today it is arguably the largest creature in the world. Utazupanda, a cloned colony of 40,000 rooted poplar trees, is now the “largest individual plant” across more than 80 football fields. Giant mushrooms are even larger, weaving a mycelial tendril net under and below the 3.5 square miles of bark in the Maroo National Forest, Oregon. By comparison, Shark Bay cloned seagrass is 77 square miles, about the same size as Cincinnati.
Shark Bay clones have reached huge sizes and ages, but the question remains whether they can withstand modern climate change. Dr. Julia Harencher, a candidate who was not involved in the study at the University of California, Santa Cruz, praised, “We are trying to understand in more detail why ploidy is advantageous at these major environmental changes.” .. This can be a lesson for the climate crisis.
Marlene Janke, a biologist at Gothenburg University in Sweden, who was not involved in the study, says it is very important to protect seagrass. He purifies water, stores carbon in the atmosphere, and adds, “in fact, it’s comparable to coral reefs in the sense that it contains many other species.”
Dr. Sinclair hopes that Shark Bay Posedonia can maintain its position as the world’s largest living plant, while the dangers of seagrass are high. After being hit by the heat wave of 2010-2011, he said, “We saw a lot. We are recovering because of more shoots and denser leaves.” “I think these polyploids are probably pretty good in terms of sustainability.”