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Cactus genes connect modern Mexico to its prehistoric past
Date:8/23/2010

a simple transition from wild to domesticated plants. The methods of propagation of cacti by the traditional farmers, including the production of a variety of fruits, help increase the genetic diversity of the cacti. This is a crucial strategy in conserving the genetic resources of Mesoamerica. In contrast agriculture in the industrialised world aims for mass-produced conformity in fruit."

Dr. Mark Olson, a biologist at UNAM who did not participate in the project, believes the research has significant implications for the future: "Mesoamerica is a real laboratory for the study of evolution and domestication is one of the most important ways available for studying the evolutionary process. It is a rare luxury to be able to study not only the descendants of selection but also to be able to examine a true living ancestor.

"Perhaps more than any other region on earth, Mesoamerica has a range of grades of domestication, from the highly modified, such as maize, to plants only casually managed and in stages of 'incipient domestication'. Understanding this process will be important as Mexico becomes inundated with commercial varieties of corn, beans and other plants, all growing next to their wild ancestors."

Whether or not the future includes a domesticated Gray Ghost Organ Pipe remains to be seen. Parra notes that even cacti are struggling with the diminishing rainfall. This, and economic pressures, means that the traditional farming methods are in decline and may be lost in the future.


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Contact: Dr David Frost
annalsbotany@le.ac.uk
44-011-625-23396
Oxford University Press
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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