A field of underwater seaweed species Posidonia australis located in Shark Bay in the Indian Ocean belongs to a single specimen, genetic analyzes by Australian scientists show.
The organism covers an area of 180 square kilometers after spending the last 4500 years cloning itself.
The researchers confirmed that the swamp is the same organism
taking samples and comparing DNA from shoots across the fieldwrote the study’s co-author, marine biologist Jane Edgeloe of the University of Western Australia.
Many plants and some animals can reproduce asexually. Cloning has disadvantages, such as greater susceptibility to disease, but the
process can create “hope-filled monsters” by opening the door to rapid growththe researchers wrote.
Scientists say the swamp, which occupies an area larger than Washington State, is
the largest known clone on Earth.
Despite its immense size, the swamp is vulnerable. Ten years ago, algae took up about 20 square kilometers more, but cyclones and rising ocean temperatures associated with climate change have recently killed almost 10% of this ancient marsh.
The finding was published Wednesday in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.