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Packs a Punch

While the carnivorous bladderwort has a smaller genome than most other plants, it squeezes a lot into that material, according to researchers led by the University at Buffalo's Victor Albert.

As they report in Molecular Biology and Evolution, Albert and his colleagues found that the Utricularia gibba genome was subject to intense deletion pressure that drove its size down. While its genome duplicated at least three times, according to the researchers, surplus genes were trimmed out.

"It turned out that those rates of evolutionary turnover — especially the rate of loss — was incredibly high compared to other plants," Albert tells the Washington Post. "The genome was subjected to some heavy duty deletion mechanisms."

At the same time, the bladderwort genome held fast to a number of genes, especially ones specific to its aquatic and carnivorous lifestyle. But, the Post points out that why this bladderwort has deleted more of its genome than its close relatives, even ones living in similar habitats, is unclear.

"It might just not be as good at repairing its DNA as its close friends are," Albert says.