Genomic comparison of two independent seagrass lineages reveals habitat-driven convergent evolution

Hueytyng Lee, Agnieszka A. Golicz, Philipp E. Bayer, Anita A. Severn-Ellis, Chon Kit Kenneth Chan, Jacqueline Batley, Gary A. Kendrick, David Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Seagrasses are marine angiosperms that live fully submerged in the sea. They evolved from land plant ancestors, with multiple species representing at least three independent return-to-the-sea events. This raises the question of whether these marine angiosperms followed the same adaptation pathway to allow them to live and reproduce under the hostile marine conditions. To compare the basis of marine adaptation between seagrass lineages, we generated genomic data for Halophila ovalis and compared this with recently published genomes for two members of Zosteraceae, as well as genomes of five non-marine plant species (Arabidopsis, Oryza sativa, Phoenix dactylifera, Musa acuminata, and Spirodela polyrhiza). Halophila and Zosteraceae represent two independent seagrass lineages separated by around 30 million years. Genes that were lost or conserved in both lineages were identified. All three species lost genes associated with ethylene and terpenoid biosynthesis, and retained genes related to salinity adaptation, such as those for osmoregulation. In contrast, the loss of the NADH dehydrogenase-like complex is unique to H. ovalis. Through comparison of two independent return-to-the-sea events, this study further describes marine adaptation characteristics common to seagrass families, identifies species-specific gene loss, and provides molecular evidence for convergent evolution in seagrass lineages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3689-3702
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2018


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