Scientists recently discovered the world’s largest plant growing underwater in Western Australia. According to a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the plant, discovered in Shark Bay, is believed to cover a whopping 200 square kilometers (77 square miles). This area is slightly larger than the city of Glasgow, more than three times the size of Manhattan Island or about 20,000 rugby fields, the Independent reported.
Researchers said the discovery was made by accident after they stumbled across the plant while conducting genetic testing. At first they thought the plant was a giant seagrass meadow, but later they discovered it was a plant spread from a single seed. Experts think the plant is about 4,500 years old and 180 km long.
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According to the study, the researchers said the plant is a single clone of “Posidonia australis” seagrass and the largest known example of a clone in any environment on Earth. It is believed to have formed in shallow waters after the inundation of the Shark Bay area less than 8,500 years ago.
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Speak with ABC Australiaevolutionary biologist and co-author Elizabeth Sinclair, of the University of Western Australia, said: “We were quite surprised when we took a close look at the data and it seemed to indicate that everything belonged to that one plant.”
Furthermore, the researchers said that, aside from the plant’s unusual size, its ability to sustain itself over thousands of years suggests it has developed resilience to recover from an extreme climate event through vegetative growth. They added that the signs of reproductive activity in the plant are also “inconspicuous” because it doesn’t flower or seed as much.
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The experts said the plant’s relative abundance suggests it has developed a resilience to variable and often extreme conditions that will allow it to persist now and into the future.