Science News
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Land plant became key marine species

Date:
February 1, 2016
Source:
University of Gothenburg
Summary:
The genome of eelgrass (Zostera marina) has now been unveiled. It turns out that the plant, once land-living but now only found in the marine environment, has lost the genes required to survive out of the water.
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Eelgrass belongs to a group of flowering plants that have adapted to a life in water. As such, it is a suitable candidate for studies of adaptation and evolution.
Credit: Frithjof Moy

The genome of eelgrass (Zostera marina) has now been unveiled. It turns out that the plant, once land-living but now only found in the marine environment, has lost the genes required to survive out of the water. Scientists from the University of Gothenburg participated in the research study, the results of which are published in the scientific journal Nature.

Eelgrass belongs to a group of flowering plants that have adapted to a life in water. As such, it is a suitable candidate for studies of adaptation and evolution.

'Since flowering plants have emerged and developed on land, eelgrass can be expected to share many genetic features with many land plants. Studying differences between them can tell us how eelgrass has adapted to a marine environment,' says Mats Töpel, researcher at the Department of Marine Sciences, University of Gothenburg, who participated in the sequencing of the eelgrass genome.

Töpel is part of an international research collaboration involving 35 research teams. As a result of their efforts, the eelgrass genome has now been published in Nature.

A life on land no longer possible

One interesting discovery made by the scientists is that eelgrass has lost not only the special cells that flowering plants need to be able to 'breathe' (meaning to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen) but also the genes required to form these cells.

'This is a good example of how evolution extends beyond mere accumulation of useful traits; organisms can also benefit from losing certain genes and characteristics,' says Töpel.

Eelgrass -- a key species in trouble

Eelgrass belongs to a group of plants generally referred to as seagrass and forms gigantic submarine meadows along European, North American and Asian shores. The plant has adapted to many different environments, from the bitter Arctic cold to the warm waters further south.

In all of these environments, eelgrass serves an important function in the ecosystem by binding sediments and acting as a nursery for young fish and other animals. It also influences our own environment by binding large amounts of nutrients and carbon dioxide.

'Lately, the eelgrass meadows have disappeared in many places, and a lot of research is underway to figure out how these ecosystems work and what we can do to protect them,' says Töpel.

Further studies remain

The genome of an organism contains huge amounts of information.

'So far we have only scratched the surface. A vast number of bioinformatic analyses of eelgrass remain to be done. And the increasing availability of genomes of other organisms enables us to make new comparisons,' says Töpel.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Gothenburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jeanine L. Olsen, Pierre Rouzé, Bram Verhelst, Yao-Cheng Lin, Till Bayer, Jonas Collen, Emanuela Dattolo, Emanuele De Paoli, Simon Dittami, Florian Maumus, Gurvan Michel, Anna Kersting, Chiara Lauritano, Rolf Lohaus, Mats Töpel, Thierry Tonon, Kevin Vanneste, Mojgan Amirebrahimi, Janina Brakel, Christoffer Boström, Mansi Chovatia, Jane Grimwood, Jerry W. Jenkins, Alexander Jueterbock, Amy Mraz, Wytze T. Stam, Hope Tice, Erich Bornberg-Bauer, Pamela J. Green, Gareth A. Pearson, Gabriele Procaccini, Carlos M. Duarte, Jeremy Schmutz, Thorsten B. H. Reusch, Yves Van de Peer. The genome of the seagrass Zostera marina reveals angiosperm adaptation to the sea. Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature16548

Cite This Page:

University of Gothenburg. "Land plant became key marine species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 February 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160201125518.htm>.
University of Gothenburg. (2016, February 1). Land plant became key marine species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160201125518.htm
University of Gothenburg. "Land plant became key marine species." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160201125518.htm (accessed July 24, 2016).

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