U.S. scientists have fully sequenced the largest known genome — that of a tree.
It's called the loblolly pine and is found throughout the Southeastern U.S. Like the tree itself, its genetic code is huge. Scientists finally sequenced 16 billion genome fragments — making its genome about seven times bigger than the human genome. (Via Genetics, YouTube / Tammy Sons)
To put it into perspective, the loblolly pine genome has about 22 billion base pairs; whereas, the human genome has only 3 billion. (Via YouTube / TED-Ed)
This is where things get a little complicated. Because of the sheer number of the tree's genes, it would have taken years to sequence its DNA using technology for sequencing the human genome.
But as NBC reports, for the first time the researchers were able to use a process in which computers sort all the "puzzle pieces" and eliminate duplicates — saving the researchers a lot of time.
The successful sequencing of the tree will be helpful in understanding its longevity. As Tech Times reports, the loblolly pine is the "most commercially important" tree in the U.S. because of its use as a source for lumber and paper products.
The researchers also say the genome mapping will allow scientists to understand disease resistance in southern pines, which are prey to many diseases such as fusiform rust. (Via American Forest and Paper)
The director for the organization that funded the study notes the research will further the forestry industry. He adds, "[The] loblolly pine will take on even greater importance as we look for new sources of biomass to drive our nation's bio-economy, and ways to increase carbon sequestration and mitigate climate change." (Via University of California, Davis)
The team says its next project will be even bigger — sequencing the genome of the sugar pine, which has more than double the number of base pairs as the loblolly pine.