Science/Technology
9:30 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Amborella plant doubled its genome

Amborella plant
Credit Photo from UB Website by Sangate Kim

Around 200 million years ago, a flower changed its genes for unknown reasons and became the botanic ancestor of flowering plants today.  A research alliance from around the country, including a University at Buffalo professor, says the research solves a mystery familiar to Charles Darwin.

Amborella is a small tree or large shrub found only on the distant Pacific Ocean island of New Caledonia. That's where this alliance of researchers found the samples used to sample the entire genome of the plant.

The research shows that in the distant reaches of time the plant's genome doubled for no reason anyone today knows. It explains Darwin's then unanswerable question of how plants developed long ago. That split passed down through time to an array of plants.

UB Biologist Victor Albert tells WBFO News the research gives scientists the family tree of many plants.

"If you imagine the very first split in flowering plants that occurred many, many, many years ago, many millions of years ago, if you imagine that very first split, all that's left of it is Amborella and the other split is over 300,000 species of flowering plants still alive today," said Albert.

Albert said this research also shows the increasing sophistication of plant researchers like his UB graduate students, who use constantly improving tools to study the plants around us and to learn where problem areas are in the genome and what might be improved to create better plants.