New gene study sheds light on origin of more than 300,000 flowering plants
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.
Scientists who sequenced the Amborella genome said that it provides conclusive evidence that the ancestor of all flowering plants, including Amborella, evolved following a “genome doubling event” that occurred about 200 million years ago.
Some duplicated genes were lost over time but others took on new functions, including contributions to the development of floral organs.
“Genome doubling may, therefore, offer an explanation to Charles Darwin’s “abominable mystery” -the apparently abrupt proliferation of new species of flowering plants in fossil records dating to the Cretaceous period,” said Claude dePamphilis of Penn State University.
Comparative analyses of the Amborella genome are already providing scientists with a new perspective on the genetic origins of important traits in all flowering plants- including all major food crop species.
The study is published in the journal Science.