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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tulip tree's genome is 'molecular fossil'

Tulip tree's genome is 'molecular fossil'

Trunk and foliage of old tulip tree (Image: BBC)The genetic data gives biologists a glimpse into the distant past when flowering plants first appearedThe species' genomic change is about 2,000 times slower than in humans, making it a "molecular fossil", a team of US researchers said.The "extraordinary level of conservation" of genetic data in the tulip tree remains largely unchanged since the dinosaurs, a study suggests.
The new information has affected our understanding of flowering plants' evolution, they added.
The team from the universities of Indiana and Arkansas sequenced the mitochondrial genome of the species (Liriodendron tulipifera), only to discover it had one of the slowest silent mutation rates (a process that does not affect gene function).
They added that the sequencing showed that many of the genes that had been lost during 200 million years of flowering plants' (angiosperms) evolution had been preserved.
"Based on this, it appears that the genome has been more-or-less frozen in time for millions and millions of years," explained co-author Prof Jeffrey Palmer.
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