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New insights on date palm evolution using 2,200-year old leaf found in ancient Egyptian temple

This study is one of the first to examine the genomes of plants found in archaeological sites

Date:
September 7, 2021
Source:
New York University
Summary:
Using a leaf uncovered from the archaeological site of an ancient Egyptian temple, researchers from NYU Abu Dhabi's (NYUAD) Center for Genomics and Systems Biology have successfully determined the ancient hybrid origin of some date palms, which could prove useful for modern date palm breeding as the plant remains a cornerstone of Middle Eastern and North African agriculture.
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Using a leaf uncovered from the archaeological site of an ancient Egyptian temple, researchers from NYU Abu Dhabi's (NYUAD) Center for Genomics and Systems Biology have successfully determined the ancient hybrid origin of some date palms, which could prove useful for modern date palm breeding as the plant remains a cornerstone of Middle Eastern and North African agriculture.

The findings, published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, corroborate hybridization with wild relatives first reported by NYUAD researchers two years ago (Flowers et al. 2019). They follow another project in which the researchers first sequenced the genomes of date palm plants from ancient germinated seeds.

In this instance, NYUAD researchers in collaboration with lead researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, UK, sequenced the nuclear and plastid genomes of an approximately 2,100 year-old date palm leaf found in a temple at a UNESCO World Heritage site located south of Cairo, Egypt and radiocarbon dated it to the Late Period of ancient Egypt, roughly 357-118 BCE.

Researchers then used population genomic tests, molecular clock models, and gene-flow-aware multi species coalescence (MSC) approaches on plastid and nuclear genome wide-data sets to detect ancient gene flow and to provide a temporal framework for diversification and reticulated evolution in the plant.

"This paper is one of the very few studies that have looked at the genomes of plants found in archaeological sites," says NYUAD Professor of Biology Michael D. Purugganan. "The work sheds light on the importance of hybridization in the evolution of date palms, especially those from North Africa. It shows that by 2,200 years ago, date palms from Egypt already had genetic material from another species, Phoenix theophrasti, which today grows only in Crete, some of the other Greek islands and parts of southwest Turkey."


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Journal Reference:

  1. Oscar A Pérez-Escobar, Sidonie Bellot, Natalia A S Przelomska, Jonathan M Flowers, Mark Nesbitt, Philippa Ryan, Rafal M Gutaker, Muriel Gros-Balthazard, Tom Wells, Benedikt G Kuhnhäuser, Rowan Schley, Diego Bogarín, Steven Dodsworth, Rudy Diaz, Manuela Lehmann, Peter Petoe, Wolf L Eiserhardt, Michaela Preick, Michael Hofreiter, Irka Hajdas, Michael Purugganan, Alexandre Antonelli, Barbara Gravendeel, Ilia J Leitch, Maria Fernanda Torres Jimenez, Alexander S T Papadopulos, Guillaume Chomicki, Susanne S Renner, William J Baker. Molecular Clocks and Archeogenomics of a Late Period Egyptian Date Palm Leaf Reveal Introgression from Wild Relatives and Add Timestamps on the Domestication. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2021; DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msab188

Cite This Page:

New York University. "New insights on date palm evolution using 2,200-year old leaf found in ancient Egyptian temple." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210907160552.htm>.
New York University. (2021, September 7). New insights on date palm evolution using 2,200-year old leaf found in ancient Egyptian temple. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 29, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210907160552.htm
New York University. "New insights on date palm evolution using 2,200-year old leaf found in ancient Egyptian temple." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210907160552.htm (accessed November 29, 2023).

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