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Where did flowers come from?
Date:2/7/2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo is a key partner in a $7.3 million, multi-institution collaboration to explore the origins of all flowers by sequencing the genome of Amborella, a unique species that one researcher has nicknamed the "platypus of flowering plants."

Amborella is an understory shrub or small tree found in only one place on the planet: the Pacific islands of New Caledonia. The plant, a direct descendant of the common ancestor of all flowering plants, is the single known living species on the earliest branch of the genetic tree of life of flowering plants.

As such, Amborella is a molecular living fossil, said Victor Albert, UB Empire Innovation Professor in biological sciences and a co-principal investigator on the Amborella genome project.

View a video interview with Albert here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDfW-uTs1i0

In the same way that the DNA of the platypus, a mammal of ancient lineage, can help us study the evolution of all mammals, the DNA of Amborella can help us learn about the evolution of all flowers, Albert said.

Specifically, by comparing the genetic make-up of Amborella to that of newer species, biologists will be able to study a diverse range of plant characteristics, from how flowers resist drought and how fruits mature to how critical crops might respond to global warming.

"This is work that's related to the human condition in various ways. We're talking about food, fiber, fuel and the future," said Albert, a faculty member in UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. "Most of our food comes from flowers. All the fruit crops and grains are flowering plants. Cotton fiber is from fruit, and fruits come from flowers. Soybeans are fruits. Rice comes from the seed of a flowering plant."

Albert's co-investigators include Claude W. dePamphilis at Pennsylvan
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Contact: Charlotte Hsu
chsu22@buffalo.edu
716-645-4655
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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