Spooky ancestors: how did the food basket of the stone age

© Depositphotos / robynmacФиолетовая carrotsSpooky ancestors: how did the food basket of the stone age© Depositphotos / robynmacПодпишись to daily updates RIA Science

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Watermelons the size of a pea, bananas with seeds, purple carrot and solid corn — our ancestors saw the potential in them, and brought the gorgeous edible varieties. To find the historical roots of these crops, managed with the help of DNA analysis. RIA Novosti says that when people started breeding of vegetables and fruit and how it has affected their quality.

The ancestor of corn is teosinte, which is nine thousand years ago fell an inquiring mind Homo sapiens, not so similar to the modern version of what scientists have long doubted their relationship. The dispute was settled by the DNA of ancient teosinte ear (still grows in South America), found by archaeologists in one of the caves of Tehuacan valley in Mexico, and modern corn.

The remains of plants 5310 age years turned out to be a missing link between teosinte, which not even the cob, and the stem ends, small ears with hard grains, and familiar to us yellow corn.

The size of the cobs found in the caves of Tehuacan, closer to the wild ancestor, about two inches in length, but apparently has resembles modern corn. Grains of ancient plants deprived of a hard shell around a hard Central part and closed leaves. Based on a comparative analysis of three genomes, the scientists came to the conclusion that the transformation of teosinte into maize culture was gradual, and not drastic changes in genes, as previously thought.

In 2014, at Christie’s put up a still life Italian painter Giovanni Machines, attracted the attention not only of art historians and art lovers, many historians and biologists. Among masterfully depicted peaches, pears and apples were pretty weird with the watermelon too thick (even watermelon), rind and large seeds. Sweet red pulp in the berries was not enough, and most of the fruit were white and inedible.

Watermelon really looked like in the seventeenth century, and its wild predecessor — tsamma melon (Citrullus ecirrhosus), which grows in the African Kalahari desert, is a striped berry no more than five centimeters in diameter, bitter and hard. Sugar in it is three times less than in the watermelon, but there are fats and starch. DNA analysis showed that tsamma and modern watermelon — related.

First to tame a wild berry decided the ancient Egyptians nearly four thousand years ago in their graves often find the seeds of the ancient watermelons.

Several millennia ago, the tomatoes, too, was not to know — bunches of small berries were like large fruits of red currant. South American Indians, which is probably the first «domesticated» tomatoes in the selection process relied on the largest specimens. The result radically changed the structure and functioning of the CSR gene controlling the size of the tomatoes. After a DNA comparison of cultural and semi-wild varieties of tomatoes, an international group of scientists found that almost all modern tomatoes grown people, there is a «corrupted» version of the gene.

The cultivation of tomatoes has an effect on their taste — it became more bland. It’s a side effect of attempts by breeders to increase the size of tomatoes and the result of an unusual interaction of the genes responsible for protecting the berries from the drought.

Wild carrots that grew a few thousand years ago in the middle East and Central Asia, was thin, white, bitter and unpleasant smell. To grow it became only for the sake of the fragrant seeds and roots drew attention only in the first century ad. First cultivated vegetable was yellow and purple flowers, and only in the XVII century there appeared usual for us orange carrots.

Some researchers attribute the emergence of the Dutch patriots, who wanted to root color approached the national flag, others think that orange carrots did not give dishes an ugly brown color, because breeders prefer her purple. Whatever it was, but the choice was correct. According to the research of American scientists, the pigments associated with orange (carotenoids), make the carrots so useful. Carotenoids are considered to be metabolic precursors of vitamin a, And it is important for good vision.

The main feature of the cultivated banana, whose fruit can be bought in any store — it is not able to reproduce. Farmers produce new plants vegetatively, by planting the sprouts that formed on old. But the presumed wild ancestor of the banana Musa acuminate, is still growing in South East Asia, reproduces itself, as it has quite a large dark pit — 50-60 in each fruit. The black dots in the core of the modern edible bananas is the memory of those seeds.

The current bananas twice their wild ancestors, but very vulnerable to infections and parasites, which grandparents successfully resisted. Most edible varieties (47 percent) come from the so-called group of Cavendish (Cavendish banana), and the limited genetic diversity is always a sentence, because the plant does not have time to keep up with mutating pests.

The solution was found by Australian scientists, who proposed to transplant the cultural varieties the genes of their wild ancestors. Researchers have raised several such feral plants which successfully resisted Panama disease, caused by fungi of the genus Fusarium.

© CC0, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Warut RoonguthaiВ one fruit of the wild banana contains up to 50-60 bonesSpooky ancestors: how did the food basket of the stone age© CC0, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Warut RoonguthaiВ one fruit of the wild banana contains up to 50-60 bones