(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of scientists, including members of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT’s Musa Germplasm Transit Center, found that modern bananas share a mysterious common ancestor.
The scientific community believes that bananas were first domesticated about seven thousand years ago on the island of New Guinea from the wild Musa acuminata.
In the new study, the authors suggest that modern crops are actually descended from hybrids of several different subspecies.
According to them, M. acuminata evolved in the northern border regions between India and Myanmar and then spread more widely across Australasia ten million years before domestication.
In the process, the scientists sequenced the DNA of 226 leaf extracts from the world’s largest collection of banana specimens.
Among these accessions, 68 belonged to nine wild subspecies of M. acuminata, 154 to diploid domesticated varieties descended from M. acuminata, and four to more distant wild species and hybrids.
The researchers measured the levels of relatedness between cultivars and wild bananas and then compiled family trees based on 39,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).
For the first time, three common ancestors were found in the genome of all domesticated specimens, which have not yet been found in the wild.
Experts are sure that these representatives may still exist today, but are either poorly described or not described at all.
It is necessary to look for them in the area between the Gulf of Thailand and the west of the South China Sea; between northern Borneo and the Philippines and on the island of New Guinea.
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