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Fern's sequenced genome holds environmental promise

A tiny fern -- with each leaf the size of a gnat -- may provide global impact for sinking atmospheric carbon dioxide, fixing nitrogen in agriculture and shooing pesky insects from crops. The fern's full genome has been sequenced by National Science Foundation-supported scientists. Azolla filiculoides is a water fern often found fertilizing rice paddies in Asia, but its ancestry goes much further back. As the scientists sequenced the genome, they identified a fern-specific gene shown to provide insect resistance. Ferns are notorious for having large genomes, some as large as 148 gigabases, or the equivalent of 148 billion base pairs of DNA sequences. On average, fern genomes are 12 gigabases -- a reason why scientists have not sequenced one, until now. The Azolla is .75 gigabases.

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