Photo source: J.L. Olsen et. “The genome of the seagrass Zostera marina reveals angiosperm adaptation to the sea.” Nature 530:331–5, 2016.
Eelgrass, a member of the seagrass family, is a major component of coastal ecosystems on all continents except Antarctica. While this humble plant might not seem formidable, it has faced some daunting evolutionary challenges that have just recently come to light after an 8 year, multi-scientist genomic study published in Nature. Originally evolved from the protist marine algae, eelgrass changed to become a terrestrial flowering plant and then evolved to move back to sea again. Along the way, certain genes were lost (for example, genes encoding the stomata) and others were regained (for example, genes encoding certain cell wall compounds that play a role in osmotic adjustments) to ensure survival in these vastly different ecosystems. This study, in and of itself, is amazing, however it also may shed light on the genes needed to tolerate increased salinity. These genes might confer the ability of agricultural crops to grow and thrive in increasingly saline soils.
J.L. Olsen et. “The genome of the seagrass Zostera marina reveals angiosperm adaptation to the sea.” Nature 530:331–5, 2016.
S.L. Williams. “From Sea to Sea.” Nature 530:290-1, 2016.