After a "consortium of plant geneticists" from 14 countries spent nine years decoding the genome of the tomato, it was discovered that it sports some 7,000 more genes than human beings, possibly helping it survive the disaster that killed off the dinosaurs.
Usually the triplication of a genome would be a considerable handicap, saddling a plant with three times as much DNA as it needs. But this event occurred around the time of the catastrophe in which the dinosaurs perished, and the extra genetic versatility may have been a lifesaver. "It's easy to think that in that period, with a lot of volcanic activity and little sunlight, the reservoir of a lot of additional genes would be useful to a plant," said Jim Giovannoni, a plant geneticist at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research in Ithaca, N.Y., who led the American contribution to the tomato genome report.
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