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Unlocking Joshua Tree's Gene Code Could Aid At-Risk Desert Fixture

joshua_tree.jpg
Associated Press
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Bicyclists pedal through Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.

The Joshua tree grows in the Mojave Desert — and almost nowhere else in the world.

The type of yucca is threatened by climate change, which is making some areas too hot for the tree to reproduce. Some experts say that by the end of the century it may no longer be found in California’s Joshua Tree National Park, about 200 miles south of Las Vegas..

The Joshua Tree Genome Project, which is studying the tree’s genetics, recently received $1.5 million in National Science Foundation grants to continue its work.

The funds will support studies of how the Joshua tree has adapted to extreme desert climates. The research will also shed light on the trees’ peculiar relationship with pollen-carrying moths, and how the genetic information within genomes is reorganized over millions of years.

 

Chris Smith, associate professor of biology, Willamette University; Jeremy Yoder, assistant professor of biology, California State University, Northridge

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