Scientists Discover World’s Biggest Plant Off Western Australian Coast

Scientists have discovered the largest known plant on Earth off the coast of Western Australia.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) and Flinders University have determined that a large underwater meadow of seagrass has spread across 180 kilometers (111 miles) — roughly three times the size of Manhattan — from a single seed over at least 4,500 years.

The researchers used genetic testing to determine how many different plants were growing in the seagrass meadows in Shark Bay, only to discover that it was just a single plant or a “clone” of the seagrass Posidonia australis.

“The answer blew us away – there was just one,” UWA Ph.D. student researcher Jane Edgeloe, the lead author of the study, said.

The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on June 1.

The researchers have now set up a series of experiments to understand how the plant has grown and survived in locations across the bay with wildly variable conditions.

“Our seagrass has seen its fair share of environmental change too. Even today, it experiences a huge range of average temperatures; from 17 to 30 °C. Salinities from normal seawater to double that. And from darkness to extreme high light conditions. These conditions would typically be highly stressful for plants. Yet, it appears to keep on going,” Flinders University ecologist Dr. Martin Breed, co-author of the study, said.

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