Genes of bull kelp algae help researchers trace history of earthquakes in New Zealand

By simply looking at the genes of kelp, scientists could see the uplift zone of the earthquake.


Scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand, after examining the genes of a kind of algae growing off the country's shores, have found a record of earthquakes in the area that took place many hundreds of years ago.

The researchers revealed that the genes of 'bull kelp', which is abundant in the shores of the Southern Island of New Zealand, carries signatures of an earthquake that took place 800 years ago, reported Science X Network.

The earthquake was so severe that it raised some parts of the seabed above the waterline. The disaster would have laid bare some of the newly-formed parts of the seafloor, researchers suggest, allowing kelp to occupy new surfaces. Kelp is known to be an aggressive seaweed that migrates when new opportunities to grow and expand come by, the report added.

When scientists tried to find out if the newly-formed seafloor might have been populated by migrating kelp, evidence suggested that it had.

 Genes of bull kelp algae help researchers trace history of earthquakes in New Zealand

Kelp are thought to be .

The findings of the research suggest that information about past geological violence can be revealed by comparing genes across populations of some organisms, according to the New York Times.

An intensity earthquake took place in Southern New Zealand along the coastline near Dunedin about 800 years ago. Researchers sampled the kelp inhabiting a 100-kilometre stretch of the same shore.

They discovered that bull kelp that lived in a 25-km stretch that was likely thrown into the air during the earthquake, were distinct from their neighbors of the same species on either side, which had not suffered the same geological violence.

"We were just gobsmacked when we looked. We could see where the uplift zone was just by looking at the genetics," Jon Waters, a professor of zoology at the University of Otago, told NYT.

The results show kelp is a territorial species of algae, according to the researchers. The study outlines evidence of how old and new kelp staying unmixed for over 800 years despite being so closeby in geographical distance.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


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