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Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

Largest known plant on Earth has been discovered

PERTH (CU)_Researchers from the University of Western Australia recently set out to examine and analyse the genetic diversity of seagrass, commonly found along parts of Australia’s coast, when they stumbled upon a major discovery by accident. Scientists were required to consider genetic testing in order to confirm what it was assumed to be – the largest known plant on Earth.

The researchers discovered the large underwater meadow of seagrass at Shark Bay, about 800km north of Perth. They collected shoots from across the bay and tested 18,000 genetic markers to determine how many plants made up the meadow. It was later concluded that the seagrass, roughly three times the size of Manhattan, is in fact one plant. It covers about 200 sq km (77 sq miles), and is believed to have spread from a single seed over at least 4,500 years.

“The answer blew us away – there was just one!” Jane Edgeloe, the study’s lead author, said. “That’s it, just one plant has expanded over 180km in Shark Bay, making it the largest known plant on Earth.” According to experts, the species usually grows like a lawn for up to 35cm a year. This is how the researchers determined that it would have taken at least 4,500 years for the plant to sprawl to its current size.

The researches also highlighted the sturdiness of the plant, given the fact that it had sprawl across locations across the bay under wildly variable conditions. “It appears to be really resilient, experiencing a wide range of temperatures and salinities plus extreme high light conditions, which together would typically be highly stressful for most plants,” Dr Elizabeth Sinclair, who was among the researchers that discovered the plant, said.

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