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Polyploidy has the potential to allow organisms to outcompete their diploid progenitor(s) and occupy new environments. Shark Bay, Western Australia, is a World Heritage Area dominated by temperate seagrass meadows including Poseidon's ribbon weed, Posidonia australis. This seagrass is at the northern extent of its natural geographic range and experiences extremes in temperature and salinity. Our genomic and cytogenetic assessments of 10 meadows identified geographically restricted, diploid clones (2n = 20) in a single location, and a single widespread, high-heterozygosity, polyploid clone (2n = 40) in all other locations. The polyploid clone spanned at least 180 km, making it the largest known example of a clone in any environment on earth. Whole-genome duplication through polyploidy, combined with clonality, may have provided the mechanism for P. australis to expand into new habitats and adapt to new environments that became increasingly stressful for its diploid progenitor(s). The new polyploid clone probably formed in shallow waters after the inundation of Shark Bay less than 8500 years ago and subsequently expanded via vegetative growth into newly submerged habitats.
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Kendrick, G., Breed, M., Krauss, S. & Lai, J.
1/01/18 → 1/07/21