DNA sequencing has located the oldest living thing on Earth, and scientists say that is… some seagrass.
Very anticlimactic, yes, but the discovery seems to have unearthed a plant that is far older than the previous oldest living thing on Earth, which was a Tasmanian plant estimated to be 43,000 years old. The seagrass in question is located over 40 ocean meadows (which exist) and 2,000 miles between Cyprus and Spain. The findings were published in the journal PLoS ONE, and Professor Carlos Duarte credits asexual reproduction for the longevity of the oldest living thing. He says:
“They are continually producing new branches. They spread very slowly and cover a very large area giving them more area to mine resources. They can then store nutrients within their very large branches during bad conditions for growth.”
According to Duarte via the Telegraph, living things “that can only reproduce sexually are inevitably lost at each generation,” and the oldest living thing, seagrass, can reproduce asexually and create clones of itself. However, after between 12,000 and 200,000 years of life on Earth, it seems the seagrass is now facing a threat– changing temperatures:
Despite its historical robustness, Duarte says the patch of P. oceanica is now threatened by climate change. The Mediterranean is warming three times faster than the world average, and each year P. oceanica meadows decline by around 5 per cent. “They have never experienced the speed of climate that the Mediterranean is currently experiencing,” he says.
The journal concludes that the “findings call for further research on these life history traits associated with clonality, considering their possible ecological and evolutionary implications.”