Genomes Gone Wild:
Weird and wonderful, plant DNA is challenging preconceptions about the evolution of life, including our own species.
by Megan Scudellari
Today, with the advent of high-throughput sequencing, that legacy of firsts in the plant field is extending to genomics research. In the tens of millions of nucleic acids of familiar and not-so-familiar plant species—from fluffy, domesticated cotton to aquatic, carnivorous bladderwort—plant biologists are uncovering surprising principles about how genomes are organized and how they evolved.
In the last two years, researchers have stumbled upon some “mind-blowing” phenomena in plant genomics, including genomes so strange that “we didn’t think [they] could be like that,” says R. Keith Slotkin, a geneticist at Ohio State University. Examples include the peaceful coexistence of two different genomes in a single nucleus and the willy-nilly way plants swap genes among species. And just as with Hooke’s, Brown’s, and Mendel’s fundamental discoveries in plant biology, the bizarre behavior of plant genomes often applies to animals as well…
(read more: The Scientist)
Photo: With 150 billion base pairs, Paris japonica boasts the largest known eukaryotic genome—50 x the size of the human genome. (ALPSDAKE/WIKIMEDIA)