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Eggplant origins: Out of Africa, into the Orient

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The eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), also known as aubergine or brinjal, has been cultivated for centuries in the Old World and is currently a crop species of global importance. Despite this, hypotheses of eggplant evolution have been fraught with controversy. Previous conclusions have relied solely on morphological characters or have been based on insufficient taxonomic sampling, leading to conflicting opinions of the number of species, phylogenetic relationships, and patterns of domestication in a group of related taxa termed the S. melongena complex. The S. melongena complex shows a series of morphological intermediates from small-fruited spiny plants to large-fruited non-spiny plants. We use DNA sequence data to show that eggplants arose in Africa and were dispersed throughout the Middle East to Asia. Solanum linnaeanum, a wild species not previously associated with eggplant evolution, is a member of the S. melongena complex. These data provide the most comprehensive evidence to date for the evolution of the cultivated eggplant.
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Keywords: AFRICA; ASIA; CROP DOMESTICATION; EGGPLANT; SOLANUM INCANUM; SOLANUM MELONGENA

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, U.S.A.; Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia 2: Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, U.S.A.

Publication date: 01 February 2010

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