The BBC reports on research into a species of sea grass found in the Mediterranean Sea that may be tens of thousands of years old.
This grass, Posidonia oceanica, reproduces in such a way as to avoid the normal problems with cloning that introduce so-called ‘copy errors’ resulting in mutations which would otherwise limit the survivability of successive generations. By combining both asexual and sexual reproduction Posidonia has been able to grow in colonies up to 15km across on the sea floor for tens of thousands of years.
This research sheds light on how an organism can avoid damaging mutations from one generation to the next while adapting to changing environmental conditions.
This is slightly older news, but I’ve realised that the recently opened Doomsday Global Seed Vault which several folks have been banging on about is in the same general area as the monster-sized pliosaur find: the Svalbard Archipelago!
The Doomsday vault is a terrific idea. Similar to the Kew Millenium Seed Bank opened in London in 2000, its purpose is to safeguard existing plant genetic diversity against accidental loss or mismanagement.
The non-scientific media have been quick to position this as a doomsday scenario – as a result of nuclear war or cosmic cataclysm – and commentators have made connections with increasingly popular genetically modified cropping. However, this facility is far more likely to act as insurance against losing species of plants in a more insidious way: by people’s apathy about conservation.