Banana Genome Science

Imagine if you had all of these bananas to pick from every day. Beatrice Sirinuntananon/Shutterstock

We did not search for banana ancestors while living in India. We just found as many varietals as we could to support the genetic stock. I have remained interested in doing the same ever since. They are more versatile than most people are aware, so the outcome of this scientific search matters:

Red or blue, squat or bulbous, seeded or seedless: Bananas have a lot of diversity and scientists have identified genetic signals of varieties that have not yet been found in the wild. guentermanaus/Shutterstock

The Search Is on for Mysterious Banana Ancestors

A new study shows that domesticated bananas have genetic markers tying them to three types of wild bananas that have not yet been found.

Bananas, it turns out, are not what we thought they were.

Sure, most, when ripe, are yellow and sweet and delicious slathered in peanut butter. But a global survey reveals many more appealing counterparts than the generic banana found in American supermarkets, with edible varieties that can be red or blue, squat or bulbous, seeded or seedless.

And the banana family tree as a whole is even more diverse, and mysterious, than previously thought, according to a study published earlier this month in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.

“The diversity of bananas is not as well described, as well documented, as we thought,” said Julie Sardos, a botanist at the Bioversity International research group, and an author of the study. “It was really overlooked by past researchers.”

She and her colleagues analyzed genetic material from hundreds of different bananas and found that there were at least three wild banana ancestors not yet discovered by botanists. Like the revelation of a long-lost relative, knowing that these missing wild ancestors are out there could change the way we see bananas and provide potential ways to strengthen the crops against disease.

Read the whole article here.

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