Moss

How an ancient plant took over the world

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You might not notice moss, but this ancient plant is everywhere.

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It grows on all 7 continents, including the dry, frozen Antarctica.

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It’s in sidewalk cracks, clinging on roofs, blanketing tree trunks, and carpeting forest floors.

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Moss even grows on rocks.

To figure out how moss spread across the globe, a team of scientists studied one of the most common mosses, fire moss (Ceratodon pupureus).

Kristian Peters

The team studied the genomes of moss from all over the world, and found a pattern emerged.

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The distribution of fire moss matched up with global wind patterns.

According to genetic data, it took fire moss 11 million years to achieve this global distribution.

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That time period can probably be explained by spores getting caught in regional wind patterns, the study’s lead author Elisabeth Biersma said in a statement.

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The new research will help us better understand how other small organisms, like bacteria, spread around the globe.

Read more science and nature stories here.

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