Massey University scientists have discovered a universal law that explains how hybrid species survive and thrive.
Computational biologist Professor Murray Cox and molecular biologist Dr Austen Ganley led the research that analysed what happens when a new species is formed. Their findings were published today in the Public Library of Science online journal, Genetics.
“When two very different species suddenly merge together, a new species is created instantaneously that contains two different sets of machinery, or RNA (Ribonucleic acid) as it’s known,” Professor Cox says. “Some parts of this machinery won’t work together, so we asked the question, how does this hybrid survive?”
Professor Cox says hybrids are surprisingly common and can be seen in the cotton used to make bed-sheets, the wheat in bread and in New Zealand alpine plants.
His team used advanced computational biology methods to sequence and analyse hundreds of millions of RNA copies of a fungus found in grass. “This particularly fungus [epichloe endophyte] is one of the good guys," he says. "The plant gives the fungus a place to live, and the fungus produces chemicals that kill insects that try to eat the grass. This hidden relationship is a key reason for the success of New Zealand’s multibillion dollar dairy industry.”
Written By: Massey University
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