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Why red algae never colonized dry land

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The first red alga genome has just been sequenced by an international team coordinated by CNRS and UPMC at the Station Biologique de Roscoff (Brittany), notably involving researchers from CEA-Genoscope[1], the universities of Lille 1 and Rennes 1 and the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle[2]. The genome of Chondrus crispus, also known by the Breton name 'pioka', turns out to be small and compact for a multicellular organism. It has fewer genes than several other species of unicellular algae, which raises a number of questions about the evolution of red algae. This low number of genes could explain why these organisms never colonized dry land, unlike their green counterparts-from which all terrestrial plants are descended. These findings open up new perspectives on the natural history of algae and of terrestrial plants. They are published online in the journal PNAS on March 11th 2013.

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