06/03/2022

Scientists Found The Biggest Known Plant On Earth

12:13 minutes

an aerial shot of some land, a bay, and crystal clear turquoise waters with dark patches of seagrass visible. it coats most of the visible shallow sea floor
Seagrass meadows in the World Heritage Listed Shark Bay Conservation Area. Credit: Shutterstock

This week, an underwater seagrass meadow claimed the title for the world’s largest plant. This organism sprawls across 77 square miles of shallow ocean and has survived 4,500 years. To accomplish this, it kept cloning itself and created identical offshoots to spread along the sand. The ocean has changed wildly over the last 4,500 years, yet this plant has survived. 

Researchers believe that cloning itself may have helped the plant adapt to a changing ocean, offering hope that seagrass meadows may be more resilient than expected in the face of climate change.

Sophie Bushwick, a technology editor at Scientific American, joins Ira to talk about how this mighty meadow persisted for millennia and what it tells scientists about climate change.

Sophie and Ira also discuss other stories from this week in science, including what countries are most responsible for fueling the extinction of wildlife, what a well-preserved fossil tell us about the sex lives of ancient trilobites, why male mice are terrified of bananas, the creation of a flea-sized robot that walks like a crab, and how scientists developed an algorithm to pinpoint the whereabouts of unknown asteroids.


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Segment Guests

Sophie Bushwick

Sophie Bushwick is technology editor at Scientific American in New York, New York. Previously, she was a senior editor at Popular Science.

Segment Transcript

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About Rasha Aridi

Rasha Aridi is a producer for Science Friday. She loves stories about weird critters, science adventures, and the intersection of science and history.

About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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