Washington: Biologists have discovered an ancient seagrass which they claim could hold the secrets of the oldest life form on Earth.
Seagrasses are generally considered to be the foundation of key coastal ecosystems.
Now, an international team, led by University of Western Australia,, says that as the ancient giant Posidonia oceanica reproduces asexually, generating clones of itself, a single organism has been found to span up to 15 kms wide, reaching over 6,000 metric tonnes in mass and is 100,000 years old.
"Clonal organisms have an extraordinary capacity to transmit only `highly competent` genomes, through generations, with potentially no end," Director of the university`s Oceans` Institute Prof Carlos Duarte said.
For their study, the biologists analysed 40 meadows across 3,500 kilometres of the Mediterranean sea.
Computer models helped demonstrate that the clonal spread mode of Posidonia oceanica, which as all other seagrasses can reproduce both sexually and asexually, allows them to spread and maintain highly-competent clones over millennia, whereas even the most competent genotypes of organisms that can only reproduce sexually are lost at every generation.
"Understanding why those particular genomes have been so adaptable to a broad range of environmental conditions for so long is the key to some interesting future research," Prof Duarte said in a university release.
"The concern is that while Posidonia oceanica meadows have thrived for millennia their current decline suggests they may no longer be able to adapt to the unprecedented rate of global climate change," he added.
The findings are published in `PLos ONE` journal.