Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



WOOD PILE
Scientists date the origin of the cacao tree to 10 million years ago
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Nov 17, 2015


This is a picture of the co-author Santiago Madrinan on field work in Colombia. Image courtesy Santiago Madrinan. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Chocolate, produced from seeds of the cacao tree Theobroma cacao, is one of the most popular flavors in the world, with sales around 100$ billion dollars per year. Yet, as worldwide demand increases, there are fears the industry will fail to cope with growing public hunger for the product.

The main problem, common to many crops, is the lack of genetic variation in cultivated cacao, which makes it vulnerable to pests and blights. Lack of genetic variation also puts cacao trees at risk from climate change, jeopardizing the long-term sustainability of the industry.

Now, however, new research suggests the cacao tree is much older than previously realised - and may have close relations capable of sustaining our sweet-toothed appetites.

"Studies of the evolutionary history of economically important groups are vital to develop agricultural industries, and demonstrate the importance of conserving biodiversity to contribute towards sustainable development. Here we show for the first time that the source of chocolate, Theobroma cacao, is remarkably old for an Amazonian plant species," says Dr James Richardson, a tropical botanist at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK, and lead author of the study.

Together with researchers from the University of Rosario and the University of the Andes in Colombia, the University of Miami, USA, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Richardson found that Theobroma cacao is one of the oldest species in the genus Theobroma, having evolved around 10 million years ago. At the time, the Andes were not yet fully elevated, which explains why cacao trees today occur on both sides of the Andes.

The species' early evolutionary origin is good news: it suggests that cacao has had enough time to diversify genetically, with each wild population adapting to its local habitat. Wild populations of cacao across the Americas may therefore be treasure troves of genetic variation, which could be bred into cultivated strains to make the latter more resistant to disease and climate change, and perhaps even create new flavors of chocolate.

"After ten million years of evolution we should not be surprised to see a large amount of variation within the species, some of which might exhibit novel flavours or forms that are resistant to diseases. These varieties may contribute towards improving a developing chocolate industry," says James Richardson.

The researchers already plan to return to South America to sample all species related to cacao and investigate the characteristics of their native populations.

"We hope to highlight the importance of conserving biodiversity so that it can be used to augment and safeguard the agricultural sector. By understanding the diversification processes of chocolate and its relatives we can contribute to the development of the industry and demonstrate that this truly is the Age of Chocolate," says coauthor Dr Santiago Madrinan of the University of the Andes in Bogota, Colombia.

The study is published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
Frontiers in Science
Forestry News - Global and Local News, Science and Application






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
WOOD PILE
Large landowners key to slowing deforestation in Brazil
Providence RI (SPX) Nov 16, 2015
Brazil once had the world's highest rate of deforestation. And while land is still being cleared at an alarming rate, the country has been successful in reducing its deforestation in recent decades. Continuing that trend will require continued government enforcement of regulations and the cooperation of landowners who control the fate of much of the the country's remaining forests. Peter R ... read more


WOOD PILE
Choking air, melting glaciers: how global warming is changing India

US calls off hunt for black box of doomed 'El Faro' freighter

Japan court orders damages for French citizen over Fukushima evacuation

China landslide deaths rise to 25

WOOD PILE
Computers tackle one of chemistry's greatest challenges

Conducting gels - from waste to wealth

Lockheed Martin introduces Digital Array Row Transceiver

Lasers could rapidly make materials hotter than the Sun

WOOD PILE
Nanopores could take the salt out of seawater

Thermal sensitivity of marine communities reveals the most vulnerable to global warming

NASA adds up rainfall from 2 historic Yemen tropical cyclones

Study unlocks faster way to assess ocean ecosystem health

WOOD PILE
Growing Antarctic ice sheet caused ancient Mediterranean to dry up

Winter isolation ends at Concordia

In Greenland, Another Major Glacier Comes Undone

Fossil wasps show little change in Southern California habitats since Ice Age

WOOD PILE
Early farmers exploited beehive products at least 8,500 years ago

Cattle dying in South Africa as drought deepens

No more brown apples

Emissions set to soar as love of steak takes off in Asia

WOOD PILE
Deaths, flight delays as heavy rains hit Saudi

Earthquake hits Greek Lefkada island, two dead

Fear and beauty at foot of Ecuador's Cotopaxi volcano

Computer model developed for predicting the dispersion of vog

WOOD PILE
In Kenya, a digital classroom in a box

Mali jihadist leader denounces peace deal, wants fight against France

China's investment in Africa down 40% on year: govt

Cameroon start-up offers clean streets, cleaner fuel

WOOD PILE
Early proto-porcelain from China likely made from local materials

Environment and climate helped shape varied evolution of human languages

Divisive religious beliefs humanity's biggest challenge: Grayling

Predicting the human genome using evolution




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement