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Smaller But Successful

Flowering plants have been wildly successful and make up some 90 percent of land plants, but just how they've been able to achieve such dominance hasn't been clear, Quanta magazine's Abstractions blog writes

But, it adds that while researchers have previously focused on plant physiology, new work has instead examined plants' genomes. In a new PLOS Biology paper, a pair of researchers from Yale University and San Francisco State University attribute angiosperms' success and rapid spread to the shrinking of their genomes.

Abstractions notes that the evolution of plants was marked by a number of whole-genome duplication events, which allowed the extra copies of plant genes to take on new functions. But plants then also lost some of that extra genetic bulk

Yale's Adam Roddy and SFSU's Kevin Simonin say in their paper that the downsizing of angiosperm genomes allowed the plants to have smaller cells and thus to have better carbon dioxide uptake and more efficient photosynthesis.

"We now know that this not only contributed to their diversity, but may have given angiosperms the metabolic advantage to outcompete the other plant groups," Simonin tells Abstractions.