The largest factory in the world is the size of Amsterdam

The seagrass meadow of ‘Posidonia australis’ in Shark Bay, Australia extends over an area of ​​approximately 200 square kilometres.Rachel Austin statue / UWA

The Australian researchers who discovered the plant set out to map the genetic diversity of seaweeds in Shark Bay. However, to their surprise, the entire seagrass bed was found to consist of only one individual. By constantly making new shoots, Posidonia Spread over a wide area. Australians describe it Their discovery Wednesday in the magazine Proceedings of the Royal Society b.

Shark Bay is largely untouched and is located in a fairly sheltered location in the ocean, which means that the plant It can continue to grow peacefullyResearcher Elizabeth Sinclair told the Natural History Museum in London. The plant took a long time to grow into what it is today: Researchers estimate its age Posidonia At least 4500 years old.

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Not two, but four chromosomes

Then the plant has another secret: it does not have two copies of each chromosome as usual, but rather four copies. According to the researchers, seaweed is a fusion of two different parental species. As a result, the plant is genetically prepared for different conditions: water with more or less salt, warmer or colder, lighter or darker.

“This is a very cool find,” says Marnel Scherenberg, director of the botanical collection at the Center for Naturalis Biodiversity. To date, aspen from the United States has been the largest known plant. There, the entire forest is made up of genetically identical trees. But this forest was a maximum of 8 kilometers long and this seagrass field 180 kilometers long.

Even Scherrenberg would dare to say that Posidonia It is the largest known living organism. “Animals don’t get that big at all, dinosaurs dwarf this. Perhaps there are enormous fungal networks that also consist of a single genetically identical individual, but they have yet to be discovered of this size.

Successful asexual reproduction

From PosidoniaNamed after the Greek sea god Poseidon, it has long been known to grow very large. In the western Mediterranean inhabits a specimen with a length of 15 km, it is suspected that it is more than 100 thousand years old.

For biologists, the new discovery also turns the theory of plant reproduction on its head. It has long been thought that the sexual mode of reproduction, in which new genetic combinations are constantly formed, works best in a changing environment. It now appears that bud making, or “asexual reproduction,” can at least be successful.

Interest in seaweeds among biologists is great, because they are able to form entire ecosystems. Seagrass beds provide a habitat for a range of animal species: from crabs to sea turtles, and from fish to dolphins.

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