DNA Duplication Linked to Origin and Evolution of Pine Trees And Their Relatives

Plants are DNA hoarders. Adhering to the maxim of never throwing anything out that might be useful later, they often duplicate their entire genome and hang on to the added genetic baggage. All those extra genes are then free to mutate and produce new physical traits, hastening the tempo of evolution. A new study shows that such duplication events have been vitally important throughout the evolutionary history of gymnosperms, a diverse group of seed plants that includes pines, cypresses, sequoias, ginkgos, and cycads. Published online on July 19, 2021 in Nature Plants, the research indicates that a genome duplication in the ancestor of modern gymnosperms might have directly contributed to the origin of the group over 350 million years ago. Subsequent duplications provided raw material for the evolution of innovative traits that enabled these plants to persist in dramatically changing ecosystems, laying the foundation for a recent resurgence over the last 20 million years. The article is titled “Gene Duplications and Phylogenomic Conflict Underlie Major Pulses of Phenotypic Evolution in Gymnosperms.”

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