Scientists find the largest known genome inside a small plant

A photo provided by Oriane Hidalgo shows Tmesipteris oblanceolata, a fern growing in a forest on Grande Terre, an island in the archipelago known as New Caledonia, east of Australia. The fern's cells contain more than 50 times as much DNA as ours do. [Oriane Hidalgo via The New York Times]

Last year, Jaume Pellicer led a team of fellow scientists into a forest on Grande Terre, an island east of Australia. They were in search of a fern called Tmesipteris oblanceolata. Standing just a few inches tall, it was not easy to find on the forest floor.

"It doesn't catch the eye," said Pellicer, who works at the Botanical Institute of Barcelona in Spain. "You would probably step on it and not even realize it."

The scientists eventually managed to spot the nondescript fern. When Pellicer and his colleagues studied it in the lab, they discovered it held an extraordinary secret. Tmesipteris oblanceolata has the largest known genome on Earth. As the researchers described in a study published Friday, the fern's cells contain more than 50 times as much DNA as ours do.

If you find it strange that such a humble plant has such a gigantic genome, scientists do, too....

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