Decoding the origins and history of the bottle gourd across ages, oceans

A fascinating dive into the past, a team of researchers Boyce Thomson Company (BTI) and USDA have uncovered intriguing details about the origin and spread of one of the oldest domesticated crops, the bottle gourd. Their research, published recently New PhytologistIt reveals the genetic diversification and population history of this hard-shelled plant, which has been used by ancient civilizations for more than 10,000 years to make bottles, tools and containers.

Zucchini, scientifically known as Lagenaria sciraria, is a plant deeply intertwined with human civilization. Imagine a plant that travels across oceans, adapts to new environments, and becomes a staple in many different cultures. That is the story of Kuppikai.

By analyzing the genomes of 197 varieties from around the world, the research team created a comprehensive map of zucchini genetic variation. This genetic map revealed insights into plant domestication in southern Africa around 12,000 years ago and then spread to the Americas and Eurasia.

„Our research not only maps the genetic journey of bottle gourd, but also opens new avenues for understanding plant breeding and distribution,” said Xuebo Zhao, postdoctoral scientist at BTI and co-first author of the study.

Demographic analyzes by the researchers suggest that after originating in Africa, the gourd made its way to the New World via the Atlantic drift and to Eurasia by early human farmers in the Holocene.

Exploration is not only wonderful because it unlocks the past. It provides a resource for future research and a practical tool for agriculture, especially in the era of climate change.

„We're not just piecing together a plant's story; we're advancing our understanding of plant genetics and evolution, gaining insights that can increase food security in a changing world,” shared Jingyin Yu, a former BTI postdoctoral scientist and co-first author. of study.

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Also, the study's identification of genetic regions associated with disease resistance and stress tolerance is particularly exciting. It suggests possible ways to breed more resilient and productive varieties of regeneration and other crops.

„The bottle gourd variation map and pangenome we have developed provides valuable resources for future functional studies and genetic assisted breeding,” the professor added. Zhangjun Fee, lead author of the study. „Uncovering the bottle gourd's past will help shape its future.”

This research underscores the importance of understanding our agricultural heritage as we look towards creating sustainable and resilient food systems for the future.

„The story of the bottle gourd is a testament to the resilience of the plant and its enduring importance to humanity,” noted Fee. „It's a story that continues to evolve, and we're just beginning to understand its full implications.”

This research was supported by grants from the USDA National Food and Agriculture Specialty Crops Research Initiative.

About Boyce Thomson Institute (BTI).

Founded in 1924 and located in Ithaca, New York, BTI is a leader in plant science research. Our mission is to advance, communicate and promote pioneering discoveries in plant science to promote sustainable and resilient agriculture, improve food security, protect the environment and improve human health. As an independent not-for-profit research institution affiliated with Cornell University, we are committed to inspiring and training the next generation of scientific leaders. Learn more at

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