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Early origins of maize in Mexico
Date:6/26/2008

The paleobotanist Dolores Piperno and her colleagues have established a number of criteria for distinguishing the starch grains of different grasses and found that those of maize and teosinte could be reliably separated on the basis of size and other morphological characters.

Maize also has a rich genetic history, which has resulted in thousands of varieties or landraces adapted to different environmental conditions. Maize scientists and geneticists have used this information to track the evolution and dispersal of maize varieties as well as to reconstruct the history of maize domestication. For example, the locus teosinte glume architecture 1 (tga1), is important in determining phytolith formation and morphology and, along with other "domestication genes" can be used to write the history of maize domestication and use by humans.

All of these methods are being used by paleobotanists, plant scientists, and archeologists like Jones and his colleagues, to reconstruct the rich history of maize domestication and evolution. Many of the ancient varieties were adaptations to different environmental conditions such as different soils, temperature, altitude, and drought. Preservation of these varieties and knowledge of their genetic and adaptive histories are of paramount importance as farmers around the world cope with changes in soil, temperature, and water availability and struggle to maintain a food supply for growing populations.


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Contact: Dr. John Jones
jonesjg@wsu.edu
509-335-3348
American Society of Plant Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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