Scientists have recently discovered the world’s largest plant growing underwater in Western Australia. According to a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the plant, discovered at Shark Bay, is believed to span as much as 200 square kilometres (77sq miles). This surface area is slightly larger than the city of Glasgow, more than three times the size of Manhattan Island or roughly 20,000 rugby fields, the Independent reported.
Researchers said that the discovery was made by accident, after stumbling across the plant while carrying out genetic testing. They initially believed the plant to be a giant seagrass meadow, but they later found that it was a plant spread from a single seed. Experts believe the plant to be about 4,500-years-old and 180km-long.
As per the study, the researchers said that the plant is a single clone of “Posidonia australis” seagrass and the largest known example of a clone in any environment on Earth. It is believed to have formed in shallow waters after the inundation of the Shark Bay area less than 8,500 years ago.
Speaking to ABC Australia, evolutionary biologist and study co-author Elizabeth Sinclair, from the University of Western Australia, said, “We were quite surprised when we had a good look at the data and it seemed to indicate that everything belonged to the one plant.”
Further, the researchers said that apart from the unusual size of the plant, its ability to sustain itself for thousands of years suggests it has developed resilience to recover from an extreme climate event via vegetative growth. They added that the signs of reproductive activity in the plant are also “unremarkable” because it doesn’t flower or seed as much.