A team of scientists and researchers from the University of Buffalo, United States, have been studying that the carnivorous bladderwort plant (Utricularia gibba) and found that while its genome is tiny, it has a plethora of genes.
The carnivorous bladderwort plant lives in the ocean and it has no roots. It simply floats around with its tiny arm-like branches that it used to trap its prey and then eat it.
After careful examination it was found that the plant has even more genes than more complex plants, such as coffee, papaya and even grapes, even though it has a small genome and it is a fairly simple plant.
As an example, the grape has around 26,000 genes in its genome and the carnivorous bladderwort plant has around 28,500 genes (80 million pairs of DNA). The amazing discovery baffled scientists since they expected to find very few genes, following the theory that a simple plant has few genes and a more complex plant has more genes.
Victor Albert, professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Buffalo, said that the plant contains very little junk DNA, which are genes that have no outline purpose. For example, the human body is made up of 90% junk DNA.
When the team of scientists compared the genome of the carnivorous plant to other related plants they discovered that the bladderwort always takes on new genes and constantly sheds others. Researchers are speculating that the reason the carnivorous bladderwort plant has so many genes is that it went through three episodes of gene duplication, which gave it copies of every gene. This is not an uncommon occurrence with plant and animal DNA.
But, what sets the bladderwort apart from other plants is that it manages to swiftly delete the majority of its junk DNA and only leaves behind useful genes, such as genes that control cells walls and breaking down of food.
When you have the kind of rampant DNA deletion that we see in the bladderwort, genes that are less important or redundant are easily lost. The genes that remain – and their functions – are the ones that were able to withstand this deletion pressure, so the selective advantage of having these genes must be pretty high.
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