UA Scientists Help Decipher Origin of Flowers

Monday, January 13, 2014
The newly sequenced genome of the Amborella plant addresses Darwin's "abominable mystery" – the question of why flowers suddenly proliferated on Earth millions of years ago.
The genome sequence sheds new light on a major event in the history of life on Earth: the origin of flowering plants, including all major food crop species. A paper by the Amborella Genome Sequencing Project that includes a full description of the analyses performed by the project, as well as implications for flowering plant research, was published last month in the journal Science. The paper is among three on different research areas related to the Amborella genome published in the same issue of the journal.
Amborella (Amborella trichopoda) is unique as the sole survivor of an ancient evolutionary lineage that traces back to the last common ancestor of all flowering plants. The plant is a small understory tree found only on the main island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. An effort to decipher the Amborella genome – led by scientists at Penn State University, the University at Buffalo, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia and the University of California,Riverside – is uncovering evidence for the evolutionary processes that paved the way for the amazing diversity of the more than 300,000 flowering plant species we enjoy today.
"Amborella represents the earliest diverging lineage of flowering plants, which means it is more distantly related to all of the other flowering plants on the planet," said Eric Lyons, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona School of Plant Sciences and a member of the iPlant Collaborative, who contributed to the project. "In other words, Amborella is the earliest ancestor of flowering plants."
This unique heritage gives Amborella a special role in the study of flowering plants. "In the same way that the genome sequence of the platypus – a survivor of an ancient lineage – can help us study the evolution of all mammals, the genome sequence of Amborella can help us learn about the evolution of all flowers," said Victor Albert of the University at Buffalo.
Read the rest of this December 21, 2013 UANews article at the link below.
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