As a bryophyte, the Takakia Mosses are rare in type. Often people mistake them as a layer of green algae from a distance. As the oldest living moss on Earth, Takakia is divided into two species. T. lepidozioides and T. ceratophylla, and mainly grow in Tibet. If one tries to find them anywhere other than the Himalayas, the US and Japan are the places. The 400 million-year-old plant genus is quite an interesting find and is the only living to have evidenced dinosaurs – both evolving and dead. However, the plant population is now in decline, and this time, it is climate change.
The Oldest Living Moss On earth Under Extinction Threat – A Case Study
A team of researchers spent nearly a decade studying the whereabouts of the oldest living moss on Earth. Allegedly, other than surviving the dinosaurs, these mosses are known to have evidenced the rise of the Himalayas from being a leveled land. And eventually, with the mountain coming into existence, these plants rode to the world’s rooftop. In the process, they were able to evolve and adapt themselves to the new frozen yet sunny environment.
The team went on 18 expeditions between 2010 and 2021 to discover how Takakia, the oldest living moss on Earth, survived in its home, 4,000 meters above ground level. As per Dr. Ralf Reski (co-author of the study) – the team set out to analyze and describe a living fossil.
What Made Takakia Survive The Past?
Takakia, in general, has the highest number of fast-evolving genes compared to any other plant type. And the research team wanted to get comprehensive details about the same, which they did by collecting samples of the plant and sequencing its DNAs for the first time. Also, their research focused on whether Takakia is a moss or a plant. To which they were able to establish the same as moss.
Coming to the question of what made Takakia survive the initial habitational changes. How could it take such an elevational difference from being on ground level to rising to the top-most part of the world, i.e., the Himalayas?
The team took Takakia samples with distinctive features – its leaves were void of the unwanted top side compared to other plants that one can see today. Also, there are no stomata that other plants use to breathe. The research team identified 121 rapidly evolving genes in Takakia – some of which help it survive the weather extremes. The team could find more mutations with new protein variants in this gene sequence. Moreover, the research team also concluded how the tiny moss had to adapt 50 million years ago as the Himalayas rose to height. And in the process, the high amounts of lipids in the plant cells helped the mosses stand firm against the Sun’s harmful rays.
Takakia, The Oldest Living Moss On Earth, In Danger
However, while continuing their research, the team did came across a disheartening find, indicating the Takakia moss was in trouble. The moss population was declining by 1.6% annually. It was much more rapid when compared to the other local mosses.
An increase in temperature, almost by 0.5 degrees Celcius, every year between 2010 to 2021 is the reason for such an alarming effect. Also, other than temperature, it is the air quality and change in the humidity levels that the team finds to have affected the moss population.
So much so the team is continuing with further studies. And is yet to come up with more findings evaluating the definite cause behind Takakia population being in danger. Also, with time, they hope to find new insights and help the plant survive.