The Origin of Flowers: DNA of Storied Plant Provides Insight into the Evolution of Flowering Plants

Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013

The newly sequenced genome of the Amborella plant addresses Darwin's "abominable mystery", the question of why flowers suddenly proliferated on Earth millions of years ago. The genome sequence sheds new light on a major event in the history of life on Earth: the origin of flowering plants, including all major food crop species. In a paper published in the journal Science, the Amborella Genome Sequencing Project determined that the Amborella is unique as the sole survivor of an ancient evolutionary lineage that can be traced back to the last common ancestor of all flowering plants.

Postdoctoral fellow Chunfang Zheng and Professor David Sankoff of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Ottawa participated in this project. They developed mathematical algorithms and data analyses based on the linear order of genes in Amborella to estimate the gene order in an ancestral eudicot genome and to infer lineage-specific changes that occurred over 120 million years of evolution in the core eudicot.

“Having the Amborella genome sequence gives us a baseline for the computer-powered comparison of all of the flowering plants, and stimulates new developments in mathematical genomics,” says Sankoff.

The University of Ottawa's contribution was funded by the Canada Research Chair in Mathematical Genomics and NSERC. In the United States, the research was funded by the National Science Foundation's Plant Genome Research Program.

For more information, please view the official press release by Penn State University, as well as high-resolution images and links to two videos associated with this research.

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