Record-breaking Tiny Fern Shatters World Record for Largest DNA

The discovery of a fern with the largest genome on record has left scientists baffled and intrigued. The plant, known as Tmesipteris oblanceolate, has genetic material that would stretch about 100 meters when unraveled, surpassing the size of Big Ben. Dr. Ilia Leitch of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, described it as the biggest genome ever discovered among all living organisms on Earth.

The fern is a member of a primitive group of plants that existed long before the dinosaurs, found only in New Caledonia and a few neighboring islands. Despite its unassuming appearance, this fern now holds three Guinness World Records for the largest genome, largest plant genome, and largest fern genome. It raises many questions about how the fern functions and survives with such a massive amount of DNA.

Researchers extracted genetic material from specimens collected in New Caledonia, revealing a record-breaking genome size of 160 billion base pairs of DNA. To put this in perspective, the human genome contains about three billion base pairs. The fern’s genome size poses questions about how it affects function and could influence extinction risk.

The study, published in the journal iScience, sheds light on the importance of genome size in plants and animals. While some species have large genomes like the fern, others have relatively small genomes. Understanding the implications of genome size is crucial for conservation efforts and understanding the diversity of life on Earth.

The discovery of this remarkable fern underscores the complexity and diversity of the natural world. It serves as a reminder that there is still much to learn about the plant kingdom and the intricacies of genetic information. As Adam Millward of Guinness World Records remarked, sometimes the most unassuming plants hold the most astonishing secrets. The fern’s extraordinary genome challenges our understanding of life and opens up new possibilities for scientific inquiry.

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