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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Buckler, Edward - Ed
item Stevens, Natalie

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/31/2004
Publication Date: 1/31/2006
Citation: Buckler Iv, E.S., Stevens, N.M. 2006. Darwin's harvest: new approaches to the origins, evolution, and conservation of crops. In: Motley, T.J., Zerega, N., Cross, H. (eds.) Maize Origins, Domestication, and Selection. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 67-90.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Wild on a Mexican hillside grows teosinte, its meager ear containing only two entwined rows of small, well-armored kernels. This unassuming grass might easily have been overlooked, were it not for the hand of nature that beckoned with abundant variation-a gift not lost on early agriculturists. Within the last 10,000 years, early Native Americans were able to transform teosinte into a plant whose ear, brimming with row upon row of exposed kernels, feeds the world over. It was a transformation so striking and so complex that some would not believe it possible, leading to years of competing theory and intense debate. But as Darwin himself recognized, when the desires of man collide with the diversity of nature, the result can be great indeed. Although controversy still lingers over the origin of maize, the molecular revolution of the last decade has provided compelling evidence in support of teosinte as the progenitor of modern maize. This chapter will review that evidence in light of several different domestication hypotheses. We will also discuss the rich genetic diversity at the source of such a remarkable morphological conversion, and examine how human selection has impacted this diversity, both at individual loci and for an entire metabolic pathway.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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