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New Amborella plant genome explains the sudden rise of flowering plants

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The sudden and prolific rise of flowering plants during the Cretaceous period has been explained by the sequencing of the complete genome of Amborella trichopoda by researchers with the Amborella Genome Sequencing Project according to their report in the Dec. 19, 2013, edition of the journal Science.

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Amborella trichopoda is the only surviving member of an ancient group of plants. The plant is only found on the main island of New Caledonia. The plant is one of the first ancestors of the more than 300,000 different flowering plants that include all fruit bearing trees and plants and all flowering plants that have pollen.

The scientists found that about 200 million years ago in the Cretaceous period the common ancestor of all the Earth’s flowering plants had a double set of some genes. Some of the double set of genes survived to produce flowering plants. Some members of the double set of genes have been lost due to lack of function. The researchers note that the exchange of gene information may have lasted until 120 million years ago.

This discovery settles one of Charles Darwin’s most famous questions in his development of evolutionary theory. Darwin did not have the equipment or the genetic knowledge to explain the genesis of flowering plants that he claimed to be an "abominable mystery." The mystery has been solved.

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