The plant kingdom sits at the base of all life and continues to evolve in response to its surroundings. Serving as a major resource for food and oxygen there is a lot of value behind understanding how they function. In a recent study, scientists discover an evolutionary burst that explains the origin of land plants.
A constant theme in evolution proves certain genes are either gained, lost, or removed. It’s like a puzzle processing different pieces to find the right fit. When comparing plants and animals, plants are a lot better at inventing new genes to grow their species. In this case, researchers looked at their transition from water to land.
The team of scientists compared over 200 plant genomes—one of the largest amounts ever in the pursuit of attempting to better understand the evolution of the plant kingdom. Their approach consisted of traveling back 470 million years ago—with the help of technological recorded data, of course. They were able to narrow in on which genes were present in early land-based plants as they transitioned from the water.
Dr. Jordi Paps, Lecturer from Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences and lead researcher, explained, “Our findings challenge previous views of this transition being more gradual at the genetic level. The first burst predates the origin of land plants, before they left their aquatic environments, and comprises genes that explain why plants are multicellular. The second coincides with the origin of land plants, and involved genes related to adaptations to challenges found in terrestrial environments.”
The study points out an important deviation in land-plants is their controlled response to drought and other environmental stimuli. Much of these responses are for protection against harsh surroundings. In this case, it’s helpful to understand evolutionary transitions to better identify genes and their specific purpose. “We now plan to use the same approach to further explore the genes involved in drought tolerance. Most crops are sensitive to drought conditions, using our methods we can find genes involved in drought resistance that we can potentially introduce in dessication-sensitive plants,” Dr. Pap adds.
From micro to macro, each stem is connected to the other. Maybe these discoveries will lend their way to the animal kingdom linking our evolution away from plants. Or perhaps they may provide further insights when it comes to the output of environmental stimuli and its effect on plant life.
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