Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

DNA Duplication: A Mechanism For 'Survival Of The Fittest'

Date:
March 26, 2009
Source:
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)
Summary:
Scientists have discovered that DNA duplications have given plants an evolutionary advantage. This mechanism enabled plants -- in contrast to the dinosaurs -- to survive the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction of 65 million years ago. With the aid of the latest bioinformatics technologies, the researchers have been able to closely estimate the timing of known DNA duplications in a number of plant species.

Some 65 million years ago, the earth's most recent 'mass extinction' took place. One or more catastrophic events - such as a comet strike or increased volcanic activity - produced widespread fires and clouds of dust and smoke that obstructed sunlight for a long period of time.

Related Articles


These adverse conditions killed off about 60% of the plant species and numerous animals, including the dinosaurs. Only the most well-adapted plants and animals were able to survive this mass extinction - but what is 'most well-adapted'?

A role for DNA duplication?

Jeffrey Fawcett, Steven Maere and Yves Van de Peer (VIB-UGent) have been working as bioinformatics specialists to decode various plant genomes - the complete content of a plant's DNA - ranging from small weeds to tomatoes and rice to trees. Time and again, they have been confronted with the fact that, over the course of the history of these plants, their entire DNA was duplicated one or more times. By means of sophisticated research techniques, they have dated these duplications as closely as possible.

Yves Van de Peer's group then noticed that the most recent duplications occurred at approximately the same time in all of the plants. But, in terms of evolution, 'the same time' is relative: the DNA duplications occurred between 40 and 80 million years ago. So, the bioinformaticians worked to refine the dating. Thanks to their expertise in comparative genome studies and their extensive database, they were able to make a very precise dating of the duplications on the basis of standard evolution trees. This indicated that, in all of the plants under study, the most recent genome duplication occurred some 65 million years ago - thus, at the time of the last mass extinction.

A universal mechanism

From these results, the VIB researchers concluded that plants with a duplicated genome were apparently the 'most well-adapted' for survival in the dramatically changed environment. Normally, in unaltered circumstances, duplications of DNA are disadvantageous. In fact, they cause very pronounced properties that are not desired in an unaltered environment. However, in radically changed circumstances, these very properties can make the organism better adapted to the new climate.

In previous research, Yves Van de Peer had discovered very old genome duplications in early ancestors of vertebrates and fish. At that time, he showed that these duplications were probably crucial for the development of vertebrates and thus of human beings as well. So, genome duplication is probably a universal mechanism that has ensured that the role of our planet's vertebrates and flowering plants has become much greater over time.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Fawcett et al. Plants with double genomes might have had a better chance to survive the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. PNAS, (in press)

Cite This Page:

VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology). "DNA Duplication: A Mechanism For 'Survival Of The Fittest'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090323212029.htm>.
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology). (2009, March 26). DNA Duplication: A Mechanism For 'Survival Of The Fittest'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090323212029.htm
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology). "DNA Duplication: A Mechanism For 'Survival Of The Fittest'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090323212029.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dogs Bring on So Many Different Emotions in Their Human Best Friends

Dogs Bring on So Many Different Emotions in Their Human Best Friends

RightThisMinute (Jan. 28, 2015) From new-puppy happy tears to helpful-grocery-carrying-dog laughter, our four-legged best friends can make us feel the entire spectrum of emotions. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Say Earliest Snakes Lived Alongside The Dinosaurs

Scientists Say Earliest Snakes Lived Alongside The Dinosaurs

Newsy (Jan. 28, 2015) Wrongly categorized as lizard fossils, snake fossils now show the reptile could have developed earlier than we thought — 70 million years earlier. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sugary Drinks May Cause Early Puberty In Girls, Study Says

Sugary Drinks May Cause Early Puberty In Girls, Study Says

Newsy (Jan. 28, 2015) Harvard researchers found that girls who consumed more than 1.5 sugary drinks a day had their first period earlier than those who drank less. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Hold Emergency Meeting to Save Endangered Rhinos

Scientists Hold Emergency Meeting to Save Endangered Rhinos

AFP (Jan. 28, 2015) Conservationists and scientists hold talks in Kenya to come up with a last ditch plan to save the northern white rhinoceros from extinction. Duration: 01:06 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins