Over the course of the past half billion years plants have evolved from tiny little ground hugging organisms into a very large and diverse group essential to life on earth. An international research team consisting of researchers from the universities of Bristol, Lyon, and Palacky have now discovered the genes behind the formation of larger plants, such as the towering redwood tree. The team discovered that roughly 450 million years ago a switch caused plants to delay reproduction and displace cells downwards from the shoot tips, which consequently paved the way for plant diversification. The team studied swollen reproductive structures at the tips of the small stems of mosses. These small plants are raised upwards through cells generating in the middles of plant stems.
Even though plants follow different growth patterns, very similar genes were found to be responsible for elongating the stems of mosses to form into larger and more elaborate shoots. The results obtained suggest that a mechanism for shoot development involving different timing and location of gene activity triggered the radiation of shoot forms. Dr. Jill Harrison says that, "By comparing our findings from moss with previous findings, we can see that a pre-existing genetic network was remodeled to allow shoot systems to arise in plant plant populations."
I found this study interesting because plants are an essential part of life on earth as they maintain oxygen levels within the atmosphere. Also as research allows us to learn more about plan genetics to further our understanding of plant shape, we have the potential to engineer crops to increase future production.