Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Lagniappe: Which apples did dinosaurs prefer?

The DNA of apples is more complex than ours; a recent sequencing of the Golden Delicious genome uncovered fifty-seven thousand genes, more than twice as many as the twenty thousand to twenty-five thousand that humans possess. Our own genetic diversity ensures that our children will all be somewhat unique—never an exact copy of their parents but bearing some resemblance to the rest of the family. Apples display "extreme heterozygosity," meaning that they produce offspring that look nothing like their parents. Plant an apple seed, wait a few decades, and you'll get a tree bearing fruit that looks and tastes entirely different from its parent. In fact, the fruit from one seedling will be, genetically speaking, unlike any other apple ever grown, at any time, anywhere in the world.

Now consider the fact that apples have been around for fifty million to sixty-five million years, emerging right around the time dinosaurs went extinct and primates made their first appearance. for millions of years, the trees reproduced without any human interference, combining and recombining those intricately complex genes the way a gambler rolls dice. When primates—and later, early humans‚encountered a new apple tree and bit into its fruit, they never knew what they were going to get.
Amy Stewart, The Drunken Botanist
I had no idea. Fascinating.

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