Soltis, Douglas L. Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
- Plant genome sequencing
- Amborella as an evolutionary reference
- Genomic analyses
- Population genomics
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Few fossils of early flowering plants (angiosperms; Magnoliophyta) have been found. The group appears suddenly in the fossil record and quickly rose to ecological dominance. As a result, Charles Darwin famously referred to the origin of angiosperms as an “abominable mystery.” The oldest known angiosperm fossils date from 130–136 million years ago (MYA), but the age of the flowering plant group (clade) is thought to be much older, at least 160 MYA. The origin of the flowering plants prompted one of the Earth's greatest terrestrial radiations because angiosperms have since diversified to more than 350,000 species. Following their origin, the angiosperms became the ecologically dominant group before the end of the Cretaceous Period, and flowering plants now occupy nearly all terrestrial and many aquatic environments. Angiosperms are enormously important for economic reasons, providing the vast majority of human food and shelter. They are also a major contributor to global photosynthesis and carbon sequestration. Because of these factors, as well as issues ranging from crop improvement to the clarification of the processes underlying the assembly of entire ecosystems, a better understanding of angiosperm evolution and diversification is crucial. This background is essential for understanding the rationale for sequencing the entire nuclear genome of the flowering plant Amborella.
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