Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wild plant or food plant?

31.07.2002


Fruit rinds provide new clues about crop domestication

Distinctly sculptured opaline phytoliths in soil and plant remains tell archaeologists which plants were present thousands of years ago. However, the production and purpose of these tiny glassy structures common in plant tissues is poorly understood. Dolores Piperno at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama and colleagues predict that a single genetic locus controls both lignin and phytolith production in squash (Cucurbita spp.), making phytoliths even better evidence of plant domestication events.

Sometime after the last ice age, inhabitants of the western hemisphere began to select and cultivate food plants. Plant remains at archaeological sites may not be well preserved, but features often contain phytoliths, tiny silica dioxide deposits from plant tissues. These destinctive microfossils have been used increasingly over the last decade in studies of plant domestication, because they clearly identify a number of different crop plants and their wild progenitors.



However, little is known about how plants make phytoliths, and why.

A 1997 study showed that a single gene in maize controls phytolith production, lignification and silification, all characteristics modified when modern maize diverged from its wild ancester, teosinte.

On the hunch that the same might be true for squash, Piperno and Irene Holst from STRI with Linda Wessel-Beaver from the Univeristy of Puerto Rica and Thomas Andres of the Cucurbit Society set about to characterize the rinds of 148 fruits from wild and cultivated species of the squash genus, Cucurbita. They also crossed the plants and characterized the rinds of their offspring.

Thin sections of the soft rinds of domesticated species lacked lignification and big, scalloped phytoliths. All of the species with hard rinds (both wild and domesticated) were lignified and contained phytoliths.

One to one correnspondence between lignification and the presence of phytoliths plus identical segregation patterns for lignin and phytoliths in the fruits of first and second generations of hybridized specimens led the authors to present results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences postulating a single locus called "hard rind" (Hr) coding for this suite of plant defensive characters in Cucurbita.

They demonstrated that the distinctive shapes and surface sculptoring of the phytoliths are determined by the different types of cell configurations in Cucurbita rinds, as the phytoliths are formed in places in the rinds that are taxonomically useful for identification when rind specimens are analyzed by archaeobotanists.

Identification of a single suite of plant defensive characteristics determined by a single genetic locus will help archaeologists to determine whether plants in ancient samples were domesticated or wild varieties.

Dolores Piperno | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.si.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

nachricht Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>