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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A genetic study of papaya sex chromosomes reveals that the hermaphrodite version of the plant, which is of most use to growers, arose as a result of human selection, most likely by the ancient Maya some 4,000 years ago.

The study, reported in the journal Genome Research, homes in on a region of papaya’s male sex chromosome that, the study indicates, gave rise to the hermaphrodite plants. 

 “This research will one day lead to the development of a papaya that produces only hermaphrodite offspring, an advance that will enhance papaya root and canopy development while radically cutting papaya growers’ production costs and their use of fertilizers and water,” said University of Illinois plant biology professor Ray Ming, who led the research. Ming is a professor in the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois. 

Papaya plants are either male, female or hermaphrodite. The hermaphrodites produce the desirable fruit that is sold commercially. Growing hermaphrodites is costly and inefficient, however, because one-third of hermaphrodite fruit seeds and one-half of female fruit seeds generate female plants, which are useless to growers. Farmers cannot tell which seeds are hermaphrodites until the plant has flowered, so they plant multiple seeds together to maximize their chances of getting at least one hermaphrodite plant. Once they identify the desired plant, they cut the others down. 

The Y chromosome in papaya hermaphrodites, which is called Yh, arises from an altered form of the male Y chromosome. Researchers are keen to understand the genetic basis for this alteration, so they can develop “true-breeding” hermaphrodite papaya, which will produce only hermaphrodite offspring, Ming said. 

“Identification of an ancestral male population that the modified hermaphrodite Yh evolved from will allow us to track down the mutation that caused the male-to-hermaphrodite sex reversal,” he said. 

The researchers sequenced and compared the “male-specific” and “hermaphrodite-specific” regions of the Y and Yh sex chromosomes, respectively, in 24 wild male papaya and 12 cultivated hermaphrodite plants. They found less than half of one percent difference between the male and hermaphrodite sequences, suggesting that the evolutionary event that caused them to diverge occurred in the not-too-distant past. 

“The sex chromosomes in other organisms, such as mammals, are ancient and the genes involved in their initial evolution cannot be identified because many subsequent changes, including gene gains and losses, have occurred,” the authors wrote. Human sex chromosomes, for example, are an estimated 167 million years old, while papaya sex chromosomes date to about 7 million years ago. This makes the papaya a good model for understanding sex chromosome evolution in general, Ming said. 

Among the male papaya plants, the team identified three distinct wild populations: MSY1, MSY2 and MSY3. Their analysis revealed that the MSY3 population was most closely related to the hermaphrodite sex chromosome. All of the MSY3 plants in the study were from the northwest Pacific coast of Costa Rica. 

“Our analyses date the divergence (of male and hermaphrodite papaya) to around 4,000 years (ago), well after the domestication of crop plants in Mesoamerica more than 6,200 years ago, and coinciding with the rise of Maya civilization about 4,000 years ago,” the authors wrote. 

Given that no wild hermaphrodite papayas have been found in Central America, “this strongly suggests that the (hermaphrodite papaya) resulted from papaya domestication by the Maya or other indigenous groups,” the researchers wrote. 

The National Science Foundation supported this research. 

News.illinois

Ancientfoods:

Happy April fools day

Originally posted on Ancientfoods:

Topic: Pasta

On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed both to an unusually mild winter and to the “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.” The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show’s highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched video footage of a Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets. The segment concluded with the assurance that, “For those who love this dish, there’s nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti.”

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest hoax generated an enormous response. Hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this query the BBC diplomatically replied, “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

To…

View original 363 more words

  

Archaeologists have made a remarkable – and delicious – discovery in Bavaria, where during an excavation they dug up a 250 year-old pretzel.

Silvia Codreanau-Windauer from the Bavarian Bureau for the Conservation of Historic Monuments confirmed that: “this is definitely the oldest pretzel ever found” – although she would give no word on whether it was past its expiration date.

Alongside the remains of the pretzel, archaeologists also found the charred remains of a bread roll and a croissant – suggesting that someone missed out on quite the historical breakfast buffet in the 18th century, the period the find has been dated to.

The baked goods are only preserved because they were burnt when originally made. Archaeologists suggest that the baker must have thrown them away in disappoinment.

The excavation site in the eastern Bavarian city of Regensburg has already proven a fruitful source for archaeologists, who discovered a wooden house thought to be up to 1200 years old there.

On this site, which lies on the Danube, there are plans to build a museum for Bavarian history to mark the centenary of the region’s status as a free state in 2018.

The mayor of Regensburg Joachim Wolbergs said. “This discovery is really extraordinary, because it depicts a snippet of everyday life.”

The baked delicacy is very much a part of everyday life. Pretzels may be seen as typically German by non-Germans, but really are very much a south German and Austrian delicacy.

It has been at the heart of southern German baking traditions for centuries, and in Bavaria in particular is often eaten for breakfast alongside Weißwürst (white sausage) with sweet mustard.

Codreanu-Windauer added some historical context to the discovery: “The form of the pretzel is supposed to represent the crossed arms of monks. Eventually it ended up as a fasting meal.”

Monks are the symbol for the state capital Munich, and different orders and monasteries give their names to many of the Free State’s most famous beers, from Augustiner to Weihenstephan – any of which are all the more delicious when enjoyed with a salty pretzel.

Original article:

Thelocal.de

 

jade corn cobe

A mysterious corn cob shaped artifact, dating to somewhere between 900 B.C. and 400 B.C., has been discovered underwater at the site of Arroyo Pesquero in Veracruz, Mexico. 

Made of jadeite, a material that is harder than steel, the artifact has designs on it that are difficult to put into words. It contains rectangular shapes, engraved lines and a cone that looks like it is emerging from the top. It looks like a corncob in an abstract way archaeologists say.

It’s an “extraordinary and unusual archaeological specimen made of mottled brown-and-white jadeite,” the team wrote in an article published recently in the journal Ancient Mesoamerica. 

Pesquero archaeological project, discovered the artifact in 2012 while diving with Jeffery Delsescaux about 2 to 3 meters (6.6 to 9.8 feet) below the surface of a deep stream.

“Underwater conditions were particularly challenging and included near-zero visibility and many obstructions, including large logs, smaller debris, partially decomposed leaves and other vegetation,” the team wrote.

The artifact dates to a time when a civilization now called the Olmec flourished in the area. The Olmec people built stone statues of giant human heads and constructed a city now called “La Venta” about 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Arroyo Pesquero. The city, which may have supported some 10,000 people, contained a 112-foot-high (34 m) 

“The iconography is pretty difficult to interpret; it’s definitely not clear,” said Carl Wendt, a professor at California State University, Fullerton who is directing the project. “It seems to be an abstract representation, I believe, of a cob of corn,” he said. Corn, along with beans and squash, was an important part of the diet for people in ancient Mesoamerica.

The artifact may have had several uses. “While it certainly could have once been the handle of a bloodletter, in its current form, we argue that it probably would have been attached, as a finial, to a staff and functioned as a symbol of power and authority,” the team wrote in the article.

In the end, the artifact may have been placed in the stream as an offering, Wendt said. The offering could have been connected to deities, ancestor veneration or magic, he added. Over the past 50 years thousands of artifacts have been found at the site and they may have been left as offerings, archaeologists say.

A sacred place

The site where the artifacts were found is a place where freshwater intersects with saltwater, Wendt said, noting that jellyfish from the ocean can get into the stream during heavy rain. To the Olmec, this intersection of freshwater and saltwater may have had great importance.

“While having practical importance today as a spot to collect freshwater, in Olmec times, the confluence would also have been important for symbolic and cosmological reasons, and an ideal place for a ritual hoard or votive offerings,” the team wrote in the journal article.

So far, the archaeologists have found no buildings at Arroyo Pesquero that date to between 900 B.C. and 400 B.C. (when the offerings were made). Rather it is the water that is important the researchers said.

“Freshwater, so critical to daily life, was relatively scarce in a region of stagnant swamps,” the team wrote. “It is no wonder that springs and other freshwater sources were sacred places, and sacrificing [objects] at them was an important part of Olmec ritual.”

Wendt co-founded the Arroyo Pesquero archaeological project in 2005 so that the site could be studied scientifically. While thousands of artifacts have been found at the site over the past 50 years many lack details about their origins. Some of them were found by looters and are in private collections.

By Owen Jarus

Original Article:

Livescience

 

Olmec stone head

 


  

A diver holds the bottle from the Civil War ship Mary-Celestia in 2011 

 

An excavation of the bow of the Civil War blockade runner ship


It tasted like crab water and gasoline, the wine experts said

An old bottle of wine containing grey liquid that was dug up from a US Civil War shipwreck was uncorked and tasted yesterday.

It was recovered intact four years ago from the 1864 wreck of the Mary-Celestia blockade runner that sank off the coast of Bermuda. It was sampled by wine experts after being submerged for 151 years.

The sommeliers’ verdict at a food festival in Charleston, South Carolina, is that the grey “wine” actually smelled and tasted like crab water, gasoline, salt water, vinegar, with hints of citrus and alcohol.

It could have been a Spanish fortified wine, a spirit, or medicine. But after spending a century-and-a-half at the bottom of the ocean, it’s now mostly saltwater.

About 50 people who bought tickets to the Charleston Wine + Food event titled “From Deep Below: A Wine Event 150 Years in the Making” also tasted the drink.

“I’ve had shipwreck wines before,” master sommelier Paul Roberts said. “They can be great.”

A sample smelled like camphor, stagnant water, hydrocarbons, turpentine and sulphur, wine chemist Pierre Louis Teissedre of the University of Bordeaux said after analysing samples. Analysis showed it was 37 percent alcohol.

The wine was one of five sealed bottles recovered by marine archaeologists from the iron-hulled sidewheel steamship that sank under mysterious circumstances during the US Civil War.

The boat was leaving Bermuda with supplies for the Confederate states when it struck a reef and sank in six minutes, said cultural anthropologist and Bermudan shipwreck expert Philippe Rouja.

Whether the sinking was deliberate or accidental has been debated.

Philippe and his brother, Jean-Pierre Rouja, were diving on the shipwreck in 2011 after winter storms swept over the site when they found a bottle of wine inside a secret boatswain’s locker in the bow.

Subsequent dives turned up the additional bottles, as well as sealed bottles of perfume, women’s shoes, hairbrushes and pearl shell buttons.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, which was fought from 1861 to 1865 and began in Charleston Harbor with the Battle of Fort Sumter.

By LAMIAT SABIN

Independant.co.uk

 

 



Scientists have scrutinized the contents of four bottles of beer found in a Baltic Sea shipwreck from the 1840s, an amber ale that perhaps was brewed in Belgium and was on its way to ports in Russia or Scandinavia.

The new analysis found that bacteria inside the beer bottles survived 170 years until it was discovered by divers in 2010, according to Brian Gibson, senior scientist at the VTT Technical Research Centre in Espoo, Finland.

“These bacteria were still alive,” Gibson said. The analysis “gave us some insight into the way that beers were brewed. We have a reasonably good idea about what kind of hops were used, different ones than today. These hops would have been harsher, these days they are quite mild. The one surprising thing is the beers were quite mild. The original alcohol level was 4.5 percent, nothing extreme.”

Gibson and colleagues at the University of Munich published their chemical and microbiological analysis recently in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

While some breweries have recreated ancient beer recipes from colonial, medieval or even Egyptian eras, Gibson believes this is the oldest intact bottle of beer. Over time, seawater seeped through the cork and made the contents about 30 percent saltwater. As a result, the big tasting by beer experts in Finland was a bit of a bust.

“The beer was quite degraded, it had a sell by date and it appeared to be well past that,” he said. “For the analysis, it was difficult to pick out the original flavors. We invited some of the most experienced beer tasters in Finland. The flavors were from bacterial contamination and not the original flavors of the beer.”

The scientists turned to chemical analysis of the remaining sugars and

“We looked at esters, which give beer a fruity or flowery taste. Most of the compounds that we would expect were there. In terms of the fruitiness, probably similar to modern beers. High level of 2-phenyl ethanol which gives a rose or floral aroma.”

Compared to modern craft brews, Gibson said it was like an amber or lambic ale, modern styles that are brewed with wild hops, floral and have sour notes.

Sam Calagione, founder and president of Dogfish Head brewery in Milton, Del., had been brewing historic beers since 1998, using recipes from archaeological digs that are passed on by scientists.

Dogfish’s “Midas Touch,” which is brewed from evidence found in a 2,700-year-old tomb in Turkey, is comprised of barley, saffron and white muscat grapes.

“The whole idea of looking backward for creative inspiration and culinary adventure is really catching on,” Calagione said. “All (the scientists) can give us is a laundry list of ingredients. It is up to us to come up with a creative recipe. What the alcohol content is, whether it’s filtered or carbonated. We have a lot of creative input in bringing these creative beers back to life.”

Stallhagen Brewery in the Aaland Islands of Finland recently re-created the Baltic Sea brew, called “1843.”

By Eric Niiler

Original article:

News.discovery.com



The site is submerged.



Wheat was present in Britain 8,000 thousand years ago, according to new archaeological evidence.

Fragments of wheat DNA recovered from an ancient peat bog suggests the grain was traded or exchanged long before it was grown by the first British farmers.

The research, published in Science, suggests there was a sophisticated network of cultural links across Europe.

The grain was found at what is now a submerged cliff off the Isle of Wight. 

Farming of plants and animals first appeared in the Near East, with the technology spreading along two main routes into Europe.

The accepted of arrival on the British mainland is around 6,000 years ago, as ancient hunter gatherers began to grow crops such as wheat and barley.

The DNA of the wheat – known as einkorn – was collected from sediment that was once a peat bog next to a river. 

Scientists think traders arrived in Britain with the wheat, perhaps via land bridges that connected the south east coast of Britain to the European mainland, where they encountered a less advanced hunter gatherer society.

The wheat may have been made into flour to supplement the diet, but a search for pollen and other clues revealed no signs that the crop was grown in Britain until much later.

Cultural connection

Dr Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick, who led the research, said 8,000 years ago the people of mainland Britain were leading a hunter-gatherer existence, while at the same time farming was gradually spreading across Europe. 

“Common throughout neolithic Southern Europe, einkorn is not found elsewhere in Britain until 2,000 years after the samples found at Bouldnor Cliff,” he said.

“For the einkorn to have reached this site there needs to have been contact between mesolithic [the culture between paleolithic and neolithic] Britons and neolithic farmers far across Europe. 

“The land bridges provide a plausible facilitation of this contact. As such, far from being insular, mesolithic Britain was culturally and possibly physically connected to Europe.”

The research shows that scientists can analyse genetic material preserved within the sediments of the landscapes stretching between Britain and Europe in prehistoric times. 

Co-researcher Prof Vincent Gaffney, of the University of Bradford, said the find marked a new chapter in British and European history. 

“It now seems likely that the hunter-gather societies of Britain, far from being isolated were part of extensive social networks that traded or exchanged exotic foodstuffs across much of Europe,” he said.

Tangible link

And Garry Momber of the Maritime Archaeology Trust, which collected the samples from the site, said work in the Solent had opened up an understanding of the UK’s formative years in a way that he never dreamed possible. 

“The material remains left behind by the people that occupied Britain as it was finally becoming an island 8,000 years ago, show that these were sophisticated people with technologies thousands of years more advanced than previously recognised. 

“The DNA evidence corroborates the archaeological evidence and demonstrates a tangible link with the continent that appears to have become severed when Britain became an island.”


By Helen Briggs

Original article:

BBC.com

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