Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient Egyptian cotton unveils secrets of domesticated crop evolution

Date:
April 2, 2012
Source:
University of Warwick
Summary:
Scientists studying 1,600-year-old cotton from the banks of the Nile have found what they believe is the first evidence that punctuated evolution has occurred in a major crop group within the relatively short history of plant domestication.

Present-day cotton. Scientists studying 1,600-year-old cotton from the banks of the Nile have found what they believe is the first evidence that punctuated evolution has occurred in a major crop group within the relatively short history of plant domestication.
Credit: Zorro12 / Fotolia

Scientists studying 1,600-year-old cotton from the banks of the Nile have found what they believe is the first evidence that punctuated evolution has occurred in a major crop group within the relatively short history of plant domestication.

The findings offer an insight into the dynamics of agriculture in the ancient world and could also help today's domestic crops face challenges such as climate change and water scarcity.

The researchers, led by Dr Robin Allaby from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick, examined the remains of ancient cotton at Qasr Ibrim in Egypt's Upper Nile using high throughput sequencing technologies.

This is the first time such technology has been used on ancient plants and also the first time the technique has been applied to archaeological samples in such hot countries.

The site is located about 40 km from Abu Simbel and 70 km from the modern Sudanese border on the east bank of what is now Lake Nasser.

They also studied South American samples from sites in Peru and Brazil aged between 800 and nearly 4,000 years old.

The results showed that even over the relatively short timescale of a millennia and a half, the Egyptian cotton, identified as G. herbaceum, showed evidence of significant genomic reorganisation when the ancient and the modern variety were compared.

However closely-related G.Barbadense from the sites in South America showed genomic stability between the two samples, even though these were separated by more than 2,000 miles in distance and 3,000 years in time.

This divergent picture points towards punctuated evolution -- long periods of evolutionary stability interspersed by bursts of rapid change -- having occurred in the cotton family.

Dr Allaby said: "We think of evolution as a very slow process, but as we analyse more genome information we can see that there's been a huge amount of large-scale proactive change during recent history.

"Our results for the cotton from Egypt indicate that there has been the potential for more adaptive evolution going on in domesticated plant species than was appreciated up until now.

"Plants that are local to their particular area will develop genes which allow them to better tolerate the stresses they find in the environment around them.

"It's possible that cotton at the Qasr Ibrim site has adapted in response to extreme environmental stress, such as not enough water.

"This insight into how domesticated crops evolved when faced with environmental stress is of value for modern agriculture in the face of current challenges like climate change and water scarcity."

For archaeologists, the results also shed light on agricultural development in the ancient world.

There has long been uncertainty as to whether ancient Egyptians had imported domesticated cotton from the Indian subcontinent, as had happened with other crops, or whether they were growing a native African variety which had been domesticated locally.

The study's findings that the Qasr Ibrim seeds were of the G. herbaceum variety, native to Africa, rather than G.arboreum, which is native to the Indian subcontinent, represents the first molecular-based identification of archaeobotanical cotton to a species level.

Dr Allaby said the findings confirm there was an indigenous domestication of cotton in Africa which was separate from the domestication of cotton in India.

"The presence of cotton textiles on Egyptian and Nubian sites has been well documented but there has always been uncertainty among archaeologists as to the origin of these.

"It's not possible to identify some cotton varieties just by looking at them, so we were asked to delve into the DNA.

"We identified the African variety -- G. herbaceum, which suggest that domesticated cotton was not a cultural import -- it was a technology that had grown up independently."

The study was funded by NERC.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. A. Palmer, A. J. Clapham, P. Rose, F. O. Freitas, B. D. Owen, D. Beresford-Jones, J. D. Moore, J. L. Kitchen, R. G. Allaby. Archaeogenomic Evidence of Punctuated Genome Evolution in Gossypium. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2012; DOI: 10.1093/molbev/mss070

Cite This Page:

University of Warwick. "Ancient Egyptian cotton unveils secrets of domesticated crop evolution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402093938.htm>.
University of Warwick. (2012, April 2). Ancient Egyptian cotton unveils secrets of domesticated crop evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402093938.htm
University of Warwick. "Ancient Egyptian cotton unveils secrets of domesticated crop evolution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402093938.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-Lift

Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-Lift

AP (July 24, 2014) The U.S. Mint has re-designed the John F. Kennedy half dollar coin to better match the former president's likeness. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire

Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire

AP (July 22, 2014) Authorities say a 241-year-old church on the National Register of Historic Places has been ravaged by fire in Maryland. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins