world's largest flower has been revealed by molecular analysis to have
evolved almost 80 times in size to become today's stinking, 15lb
Although this transformation took tens
of millions of years, such an evolutionary spurt is still one of the
most dramatic size changes ever reported.
Who ate all the flies? Rafflesia, discovered in Asia, has evolved to 80 times its original size
humans were to undergo a comparable growth, an average man would end up
146 metres tall, the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Rafflesia got its name because it was first discovered in the Sumatran rain forest 180 years ago by Sir Stamford Raffles.
American botanists report today in the journal Science that although
typically a full metre across, with a bud the size of a basketball, it
evolved from a family of plants whose blossoms are tiny.
is unusual in several ways: It has a carcass-like appearance, reeks of
decaying flesh, and in some cases emits heat, much like a recently
killed animal. These traits help the flower attract the carrion flies
which pollinate it. Because rafflesia lacks the genes most commonly
used to trace plant ancestry, the scientists had to delve deeper into
its genome, looking at some 11,500 ''letters" of DNA.