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Anyone who’s tried to kill a cockroach knows that the ancient pests have some world-class evasive maneuvers. Or at least they appear to.

“Paleontologists have come up with various kill scenarios for mass extinctions, but plant life may not be affected by dying suddenly as much as through interrupting one part of the life cycle, such as reproduction, over a long period of time, causing the population to dwindle and potentially disappear,” said co-author Cindy Looy, a UC Berkeley associate professor of Integrative Biology.

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The first “big data” analysis of California’s native plants, using digitized information from more than 22 herbaria and botanical gardens around the state, provides some surprises about one of the most thoroughly studied and unique areas in the country.

For one, the state’s arid regions, including deserts such as Death Valley, are hotspots for originating new plant species and providing refuges for older plants that have disappeared elsewhere.