Shark Bay, WA: The largest plant in the world discovered on the Australian coast

Researchers studying something else are believed to have discovered the largest plant in the world off the coast of the WA.

The largest known plant in the world was discovered off the Australian coast by scientists who were studying something else.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia and Flinders University believe that an ancient and hardy seaweed that extends over 180km in Western Australia is the largest plant on earth.

Posidonia australis is found in the shallows of Shark Bay and is estimated to be at least 4500 years old.

Researchers were initially working to understand how genetically diverse seagrass beds in the World Heritage area were and which plants should be harvested for seagrass restoration.

While this is the project’s initial goal, scientists have now embarked on a series of experiments to understand how the plant survives and thrives in such varying conditions.

UWA researcher Jane Edgeloe said the team sampled plant sprouts from all of Shark Bay’s varying environments and used 18,000 genetic markers.

It was then that they discovered that the only plant was able to grow and spread.

“The answer shocked us,” said Ms. Edgeloe.

“Only one plant has expanded over 180km in Shark Bay, making it the largest known plant on Earth.

“The current 200 km2 of weed meadows appear to have expanded from a single colonizing plant.”

The plant has managed to survive in the harsh conditions of the area, where some parts have salt levels twice as high as others in the bay and live in temperatures between 15 ° C and 30 ° C.

Evolutionary biologist Elizabeth Sinclair said the seagrass was also unique in the way it retained both parents’ chromosomes and hybridized, with seedlings containing 100% of each parent’s genome instead of the usual 50/50 division. .

“Polyploid plants often reside in places with extreme environmental conditions, are often sterile, but can continue to grow if left undisturbed, and this giant alga has done just that,” said Dr Sinclair.

“Even without successful flowering and seed production, it appears to be very resilient, experiencing a wide range of temperatures and salinities as well as extremely high light conditions, which together would typically be very stressful for most plants.”

Originally published as The largest plant in the world accidentally discovered on the Australian coast by researchers looking into something else