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Modern apples originated in Kazakhstan: study

Modern apples originated in Kazakhstan: study

The modern fresh and plump apples originated in a mountainous region of Kazakhstan, according to a study made by researcher at Boyce Thompson Institute in the US.

The study reveals a surprising two-way journey on the Silk Road for one of the world’s most popular fruit. Hereafter we have 7,500 varieties of apple present today.

According to the researchers, as travellers journeyed east and west along the Silk Road, they brought with them apple seeds from the choicest fruit they took from wild trees. The result is, we have 7,500 varieties of apple present today.

Main Findings of Study

  • The first domesticated apple had travelled to the east, hybridising with local wild apples along the way, yielding the ancestors of soft, dessert apples cultivated in China today.
  • Researchers also found that as the apple travelled west along the Silk Road in the hands of travellers, trees grew from dropped seeds and crossed with other wild apple varieties, including the incredibly sour European crabapple (Malus sylvestris).
  • Malus sylvestris has contributed so extensively to the apple’s genome that the modern apple is actually more similar to the sour crabapple than to its Kazakhstan ancestor, Malus sieversii.
  • About 46% of the genome of modern, domestic apples is likely passed down from M. sieversii plants from Kazakhstan, with 21% from the European crabapple and 33% from uncertain sources.

How researchers reached conclusion?

  • Researchers first sequenced and compared the genomes of 117 diverse apple accessions, including Malus domestica and 23 wild species from North America, Europe, and east and central Asia.
  • Then, they narrowed down the origin of the domesticated apple from very broad central Asia to Kazakhstan area west of Tian Shan Mountain.
  • Consequently, the team were able to reconstruct the apple family tree and explore the fruit’s evolutionary history.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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