A patch of seaweed on the Australian coast has spread across the sea floor for 4,500 years and is currently the world’s largest living organism, according to researchers.
The seaweed appears to be a hybrid between the existing strip grass and a hitherto unknown species. Seaweed bottoms would probably do well because they reproduce themselves rather than sexually.
The discovery was so surprising, that scientists had just sampled seaweed species to look at genetic diversity. This was very frustrating, because of the 10 sites where the samples were taken, 9 were genetically similar.
A seaweed field with a total area of 200 square kilometers must have started with the same plant. Just as for a gigantic and not entirely different organism: a network of about 40,000 aspen in Utah.
Usually, having a bit of genetic variation doesn’t exactly help the species’ survival. So the cloned seaweed field raises all kinds of new questions that will undoubtedly occupy us for years to come.
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