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Older trees accumulate more mutations than their younger counterparts

older trees

Topic: Older trees accumulate more mutations than their younger counterparts

A study of the relationship between the growth rate of tropical trees and the frequency of genetic mutations they accumulate suggests that older, long-lived trees play a greater role in generating and maintaining genetic diversity than short-lived trees. The study, published today as a Reviewed Preprint in eLife, provides what the editors describe as compelling evidence that tree species acquire mutations at a similar yearly rate, independent of cell division and regardless of their growth rate. The findings may be used to inform ecosystem conservation strategies, particularly in the tropical forests of southeast Asia, which are under threat from climate change and deforestation. “Biodiversity ultimately results from mutations that provide genetic variation for organisms to adapt to their environment,” explains co-lead author Akiko Satake, a Professor in the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Kyushu University, Japan. “However, how and when these mutations occur in natural environments is poorly understood.” Somatic mutations are spontaneous changes in an organism’s DNA that occur during its lifespan. They can arise due to external factors such as ultraviolet radiation, or internal factors such as DNA replication errors. It is not clear which of these factors causes mutations more frequently, particularly in tropical ecosystems and trees, which are not as well characterised as their more temperate counterparts.

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Topic Discussed: Older trees accumulate more mutations than their younger counterparts

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