Finally, an answer to a mystery surrounding these 1,000-year-old trees

by | Jun 24, 2024 | Science

For millions of years, mighty baobabs have been standing sentry on three different landmasses, posing each other an existential question: Who came first?The giant trees, swollen of trunk and stubby of canopy, are unmistakable. Baobabs can live for more than 1,000 years, acting as the keystone species in dry forest environments in Madagascar, a swathe of continental Africa, and northwest Australia. Known as “mother of the forest” and “the tree of life,” nearly every part of the tree can be used by humans and animals, meaning they’re of enormous value to each ecosystem they inhabit.Their reputation has only been burnished by the mystery as to where they originated. Until now, science has had to make do with multiple conflicting hypotheses – the dominant theory being that they came from mainland Africa. Not so, according to a study published last month in the journal Nature. A team of international academics successfully sequenced the genomes of each of the eight baobab species, examining their relationship with one another and concluded that they originated in Madagascar.The news comes as the trees face a precipitous decline on the island, home to six baobab species, with one likely to become extinct by 2080 according to the study, unless significant interventions are put in place.Biologists had struggled to determine the tree’s origins, as no fossils of ancient baobabs or their ancestors have been discovered, explained Dr. Wan Jun-Nan, one of the authors of the study, a researcher at the Wu …

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[mwai_chat context=”Let’s have a discussion about this article:nnFor millions of years, mighty baobabs have been standing sentry on three different landmasses, posing each other an existential question: Who came first?The giant trees, swollen of trunk and stubby of canopy, are unmistakable. Baobabs can live for more than 1,000 years, acting as the keystone species in dry forest environments in Madagascar, a swathe of continental Africa, and northwest Australia. Known as “mother of the forest” and “the tree of life,” nearly every part of the tree can be used by humans and animals, meaning they’re of enormous value to each ecosystem they inhabit.Their reputation has only been burnished by the mystery as to where they originated. Until now, science has had to make do with multiple conflicting hypotheses – the dominant theory being that they came from mainland Africa. Not so, according to a study published last month in the journal Nature. A team of international academics successfully sequenced the genomes of each of the eight baobab species, examining their relationship with one another and concluded that they originated in Madagascar.The news comes as the trees face a precipitous decline on the island, home to six baobab species, with one likely to become extinct by 2080 according to the study, unless significant interventions are put in place.Biologists had struggled to determine the tree’s origins, as no fossils of ancient baobabs or their ancestors have been discovered, explained Dr. Wan Jun-Nan, one of the authors of the study, a researcher at the Wu …nnDiscussion:nn” ai_name=”RocketNews AI: ” start_sentence=”Can I tell you more about this article?” text_input_placeholder=”Type ‘Yes'”]
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