A team led by Fabiola Parra at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) has managed to trace a domesticated cactus, the Gray Ghost Organ Pipe (Stenocereus pruinosus) to its living ancestor that can still be found in the Tehuacán Valley in Mexico. The research is published in the September 2010 edition of the Annals of Botany at http://aob.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/106/3/483
Cacti were domesticated in prehistoric times for their fruit, pitaya. They're eaten around the world, but it's the pitaya of the Gray Ghost Organ Pipe that are most prized for their quality. Parra's team went to the Tehuacán valley to examine the cacti and how they grew both in gardens and forests managed by the local people and in the wild.
Dr. Alejandro Casas, an ethnobotanist on the project, said: "What we found is that the people of the Tehuacán Valley are carefully selecting and cultivating cacti to produce the pitaya they want. They're not attempting to produce one type of pitayo. They have a rich understanding of the cacti and are able to produce fruits with a variety of colours and tastes."
Genetic analysis revealed the garden cacti were more likely to carry duplicate copies of alleles (gene variants) in their chromosomes than their wild counterparts. It shows that evidence of artificial selection has left its mark in the cactus DNA. However, the genes from cacti grown using traditional methods in managed forests showed that domestication is not a simple process.
Casas added: "We found that the forest cacti showed more diversity in their genes than expected. It is not a case of finding a simple transition from wild to domesticated plants. The methods of propagation of cacti by the traditional farmers, including the production of a variety of fruits, help increase the genetic diversity of the cacti. This is a crucial strategy in conserving the genetic resources of Mesoamerica. In contrast agriculture in the industrialised world aims for mass-produced conformity in fruit."
Dr. Mark Olson, a biologist at UNAM who did not participate in the project, believes the research has significant implications for the future: "Mesoamerica is a real laboratory for the study of evolution and domestication is one of the most important ways available for studying the evolutionary process. It is a rare luxury to be able to study not only the descendants of selection but also to be able to examine a true living ancestor.
"Perhaps more than any other region on earth, Mesoamerica has a range of grades of domestication, from the highly modified, such as maize, to plants only casually managed and in stages of 'incipient domestication'. Understanding this process will be important as Mexico becomes inundated with commercial varieties of corn, beans and other plants, all growing next to their wild ancestors."
Whether or not the future includes a domesticated Gray Ghost Organ Pipe remains to be seen. Parra notes that even cacti are struggling with the diminishing rainfall. This, and economic pressures, means that the traditional farming methods are in decline and may be lost in the future.
This research is published in the paper 'Evolution under domestication: ongoing artificial selection and divergence of wild and managed Stenocereus pruinosus (Cactaceae) populations in the Tehuacán Valley, Mexico' in the September issue of Annals of Botany, a monthly academic journal covering all areas of plant science.For further details please contact the Annals of Botany
Alkaline soil, sensible sensor
03.08.2017 | American Society of Agronomy
New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences