Moss makeup

© Jeremy Burgess / Photo Researchers, Inc.

The paper:

S. Rensing et al., “The Physcomitrella genome reveals evolutionary insights into the conquest of land by plants,” Science, 319: 64–69, 2008. (Cited in 126 papers).

The finding:

Seventy authors from more than 40 institutions sequenced the first genome of a nonvascular land plant, Physcomitrella patens. The moss, which represents the transitive group between aquatic and terrestrial plants, contains several genomic changes associated with the move from water to land, that occurred some 500 million years ago. These include genes for tolerating terrestrial stresses, such as heat.

The unifier:

The project came out of the 2004 annual moss researchers meeting in Freiburg, Germany as a way to make the field more visible and influential, says coauthor Ralph Quatrano, a plant biologist at Washington University.

The impact:

Moss holds an interesting evolutionary position, says Sabeeha Merchant, a biochemist at...

The future:

The researchers are currently working to release a second draft of the Physcomitrella genome by next year.

Key Evolutionary Gap Characteristics:
Loss of genes for aquatic environments (flagellar arms)
Genes for tolerating terrestrial stresses (heat, temperature, dehydration)
Shade adaptation

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