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Signs of an ancient earthquake found in seaweed’s genes

Some 800 years ago, an earthquake struck off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island, thrusting a 25-kilometer-long stretch of ocean floor upward. Scientists have now detected a record of this earthquake in the genes of bull kelp, The New York Times reports. Bull kelp (pictured) living in the uplifted area are genetically distinct from organisms of the same species found in undisturbed neighboring areas, according to the study published last week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Where the ocean floor was forced upward, kelps stranded above the tide line died, leaving room for kelps from farther along the coast to take over. These new populations, with slightly different DNA, likely multiplied very quickly, and their descendants still dominate the stretch of ocean floor today. The researchers say this shows that the effects of catastrophic environmental changes can linger in organisms’ DNA for centuries.

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