The world’s largest flower Rafflesia arnoldii is a master thief of almost everything, including genes! Rafflesia arnoldii, a national flower of Indonesia, is often nicknamed “corpse flower” due to the smell of rotting meat that it produces when they bloom.
There are several fascinating things about this flower, such as the fact it can produce its own heat, its pollen is a thick liquid, the flowers can produce fruit that resembles manure…
The most astonishing discovery is that this gigantic flower, which can weigh up to 10 kg, has no roots, shoots, stems or leaves like most other flowers – in fact, it has even lost the ability to produce its own food through photosynthesis, and instead takes food and water from the vine which it is attached to – Tetrastigma.
However, food and water is not the only thing Rafflesia arnoldii steals from Tetrastigma! Recently, Harvard researchers discovered 49 proteins expressed in Rafflesia were thanks to genes from Tetrastigma Upon sequencing Rafflesia’s genome, it was confirmed that around 2% of its genome was stolen from its host!
Rafflesia “stole” the genes through horizontal gene transfer, which is very rare in plants or animals and usually only happens between bacteria. Although the reasons for stealing the genes are unclear, it leaves an intriguing opportunity for scientists to explore how gene transfer between plants can be possible!
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