The World’s Oldest Living DNA

23 Jul

The Most Successful Genes on Earth

How to be genetically successful

What makes an organism successful?

Longevity  – Tortoises can live over 200 years

Strength – Rhino beetles can carry over 850 times their own body weight

Reproduction – Rabbit females can produce up to 100 babies per year

Accolades – Jonathan Goldsmith , “the Most Interesting Man in the World”, has won the lifetime achievement award, twice.

most interesting man in the world

If you measure genetic success as the ability to reproduce one’s unique DNA the most, (which makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint since DNA continuously changes as organisms adapt to different environments and a genetic code that spreads more than others would seem to be better adapted) then the honor must go to one of the most unique organisms on the planet:  The Pando Tree.

pando trembling giant tree

Pando: The World’s Most Successful Genetic Code

There is a group of trees near Fish Lake in South-Central Utah with a very unique genetic code.  They are called Quaking Aspens and unlike other trees, they aren’t just related to their parent trees… they are the same organism!

These quaking aspen trees spread in clonal colonies, where every tree is an exact genetic copy, or clone, of the next, through underground root systems that connect them all.  In effect, the quaking aspen is one giant tree and each separate “tree” that you see above ground is merely a branch of the overall underground system.

The largest quaking aspen, known as Pando, the Trembling Giant, is a single male aspen tree that has spread its root system, and its genetic code, over 130 acres in an ideal location in Utah.  This tree’s unique DNA now comprises the largest organism on the planet, weighing in at over 6600 tons or 13 million pounds!

But that’s not all.  Pando is also the oldest living organism.

It is estimated that this single tree started its journey to becoming the world’s largest physical expression of DNA almost 80,000 years ago.  That’s right – this tree’s single strand of DNA has been cloning itself and growing in this Utah forest for tens of thousands of years, unchanged.

Now that’s longevity!

pando the trembling giant

The Trembling Giant has approximately 47,000 “branches”, or trees, on its root system which are all clones of the original tree.

In 2006 Pando was declared one of “The 40 Wonders of America” and was even put on a US stamp.  That’s right, it only took 80,000 years for Pando to realize his dream of becoming famous enough to be on a postage stamp.

tribble asexual reproduction star trek

If the ability to clone yourself is the key to massively successful DNA transmission, then the most genetically successful creature in the universe might turn out to be the Star Trek Tribble, which, if the rumors are true that this creature is in fact born pregnant, could point to the possibility that Tribbles are all clones of the same original Tribble.

Thankfully, the most recent Star Trek films have not been clones of the originals.




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