Scientists have solved a long-running mystery about the first stages of plant life on earth.
The team of researchers from the John Innes Centre, the University of Wisconsin – Madison and other international collaborators, has discovered how ancient algae were able to inhabit land, before it went on to evolve into the world’s first plant and colonise the earth.
The discovery shows for the first time that the algae already knew how to survive on land while it was still in the water.
Dr Delaux and colleagues analysed DNA and RNA of some of the earliest known land plants and green algae and found evidence that their shared algal ancestor living in the Earth’s waters already possessed a set of genes, or symbiotic pathways, needed to detect and interact with beneficial fungi called arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM). These fungi help plants obtain nutrients and water from soil.
The team of scientists believes this capability was pivotal in enabling the alga to survive out of the water and to colonise the earth. By working with the fungi to find sustenance, the alga showed a clear evolutionary advantage and was selected to thrive in a very different and seemingly infertile environment.
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