About 100 million years ago, the genome of a single melon-like fruit copied itself. Over time, this one ancestor became a whole family of plants with different colors, shapes, sizes, defenses and flavors, such as pumpkins, squash, watermelons and cucumbers, according to a paper published Thursday in the journal, Molecular Biology and Evolution.
Millions of years of environmental changes allowed the fruits to lose genes over time and tailor their own codes to become what we know them as today. After each major divergent event, genes were deleted, chromosomes were rearranged and new genetic patterns were created. Xiyin Wang, an agricultural plant scientist at North China University of Science and Technology and lead author of the paper was surprised that no one had discovered this monumental evolutionary event. But he thinks that the complexity of the plants’ genomes may have made it difficult to properly analyze the genetic data until recent developments in genome sequencing.
Knowing more about which genes survived to do different things in each plant means scientists can now get closer to creating even more variations of these fruits.
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