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In Brief

Isn't it Good? Scientists Sequence Norwegian Wood

spruce tree
The Norway spruce is the first gymnosperm to have its genome sequenced. (Image credit: © Håkan Lindgren)

Beatles' fans, Santa-lovers and plant nerds take heart: The first gymnosperm genome, the common Christmas tree (i.e. "Norwegian wood"), has been sequenced.

The coniferous Norway spruce (Picea abies) is one of the most widespread and important plants in Europe. The gymnosperms belong to a group of seed-producing plants that includes conifers, cycads, Ginkoplants and woody plants called gnetophytes.

Conifers have some of the biggest genomes (most DNA) of all organisms, making them rather tough to study. The Norway spruce genome contains 20 billion genetic letter-pairs, but has roughly the same number of genes (stretches of DNA that code for a specific protein) as the widely studied plant Aradbidopsis, whose genome is 100 times smaller. Studying the spruce's genome could provide new tools for conifer breeding. The findings were detailed today (May 22) in the journal Nature.

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Tanya Lewis
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.