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Australian seagrass has cloned itself to cover 180 kilometres of coast

A seagrass off the west coast of Australia has grown to be the largest clonal organism on the planet by repeatedly cloning itself to make increasingly genetically similar shoots


1 June 2022

Posidonia australis in Shark Bay, Western Australia

Rachel Austin, College of Western Australia

A seagrass plant off the west coast of Australia has grown 180 kilometres lengthy by constantly copying itself, making it the world’s largest identified clone.

Many vegetation can reproduce clonally, that means they make similar copies of themselves. The grass in backyard lawns, for instance, expands by producing new genetically similar blades, says Elizabeth Sinclair on the College of Western Australia.

Sinclair and her colleagues found the enormous seagrass clone whereas genetically sequencing a seagrass species known as Poseidon’s ribbon weed (Posidonia australis) in Shark Bay, often known as Gathaagudu, in Western Australia.

They sampled the plant at 10 websites throughout the 2 inlets of Shark Bay and located that 9 have been made up of the identical genetically similar grass. This indicated they belonged to the identical huge plant, which will need to have begun rising in a single inlet, expanded after which unfold into the neighbouring inlet. From the pattern websites, the clone is estimated to have a complete curved size of over 180 kilometres – the researchers didn’t estimate its whole space.

“It’s the biggest identified instance of a clone in any setting on Earth,” says Sinclair.

The plant is estimated to be about 4500 years outdated based mostly on the standard development price of the species. It has most likely been capable of develop to its huge measurement as a result of it occupies a comparatively undisturbed space, says Sinclair.

The earlier record-holder for the biggest clone was one other seagrass, Posidonia oceanica, that was discovered to span 15 kilometres in the Mediterranean.

Vegetation that reproduce clonally and solely move on their very own genes are often thought-about much less resilient than those who reproduce sexually and blend their genes, says Sinclair. It is because they’ve much less genetic variety for adapting to altering environmental circumstances, she says.

Nonetheless, the enormous seagrass in Shark Bay could have “cheated the system” as a result of it seems to be a hybrid between P. australis and a yet-to-be-identified species, that means it has double the chromosomes and due to this fact double the genetic variety, says Sinclair.

This further variety could have allowed it to adapt to the intense circumstances present in Shark Bay, which embrace intense daylight and huge fluctuations in temperature and salinity, she says.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2022.0538

Article amended on 1 June 2022

We clarified the character of the world report held by the ocean grass

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