Contrasting Patterns in Crop Domestication and Domestication Rates: Recent Archaeobotanical Insights from the Old World

Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, UK.
Annals of Botany (Impact Factor: 3.65). 12/2007; 100(5):903-24. DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcm048
Source: PubMed


Archaeobotany, the study of plant remains from sites of ancient human activity, provides data for studying the initial evolution of domesticated plants. An important background to this is defining the domestication syndrome, those traits by which domesticated plants differ from wild relatives. These traits include features that have been selected under the conditions of cultivation. From archaeological remains the easiest traits to study are seed size and in cereal crops the loss of natural seed dispersal.
The rate at which these features evolved and the ordering in which they evolved can now be documented for a few crops of Asia and Africa. This paper explores this in einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) from the Near East, rice (Oryza sativa) from China, mung (Vigna radiata) and urd (Vigna mungo) beans from India, and pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) from west Africa. Brief reference is made to similar data on lentils (Lens culinaris), peas (Pisum sativum), soybean (Glycine max) and adzuki bean (Vigna angularis). Available quantitative data from archaeological finds are compiled to explore changes with domestication. The disjunction in cereals between seed size increase and dispersal is explored, and rates at which these features evolved are estimated from archaeobotanical data. Contrasts between crops, especially between cereals and pulses, are examined.
These data suggest that in domesticated grasses, changes in grain size and shape evolved prior to non-shattering ears or panicles. Initial grain size increases may have evolved during the first centuries of cultivation, within perhaps 500-1000 years. Non-shattering infructescences were much slower, becoming fixed about 1000-2000 years later. This suggests a need to reconsider the role of sickle harvesting in domestication. Pulses, by contrast, do not show evidence for seed size increase in relation to the earliest cultivation, and seed size increase may be delayed by 2000-4000 years. This implies that conditions that were sufficient to select for larger seed size in Poaceae were not sufficient in Fabaceae. It is proposed that animal-drawn ploughs (or ards) provided the selection pressure for larger seeds in legumes. This implies different thresholds of selective pressure, for example in relation to differing seed ontogenetics and underlying genetic architecture in these families. Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) may show some similarities to the pulses in terms of a lag-time before truly larger-grained forms evolved.

Download full-text


Available from: Dorian Q Fuller,
  • Source
    • "On the other hand, herbivores feeding on larger fruit can be more likely to escape parasitism, such as the apple maggot fly, Rhagoletis pomonella (Walsh), which are parasitized less on the larger apple fruit than on fruit of their native hawthorn trees (Feder, 1995). Grain and legume plants have been repeatedly selected for larger seeds (Evans, 1993; Fuller, 2007; Schmutz et al., 2014). It has been proposed that seed size evolved as a trade-off between the probability of survival after germination and the number of seeds. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Crop domestication is the process of artificially selecting plants to increase their suitability to human tastes and cultivated growing conditions. There is increasing evidence that crop domestication can profoundly alter interactions among plants, herbivores, and their natural enemies. However, there are few generalizable predictions on how insect herbivores and natural enemies should respond to artificial selection of specific plant traits. We reviewed the literature to determine how different insect herbivore feeding guilds and natural enemy groups (parasitoids and predators) respond to existing variation in wild and cultivated plant populations for plant traits typically targeted by domestication. Our goal was to look for broad patterns in tritrophic interactions to generate support for a range of potential outcomes from human-mediated selection. Overall, we found that herbivores benefit from directional selection on traits that have been targeted by domestication, but the effects on natural enemies were less studied and less consistent. In general, herbivores appear to mirror human preferences for higher nutritional content and larger plant structures. In contrast, the general effect of lowered plant secondary metabolites did not always influence herbivores consistently. Given that crop domestication appears to be a transformative process that fundamentally alters insect–plant interactions , we believe that a more detailed understanding of the community-wide effects of crop domesti-cation is needed to simultaneously stimulate both biological control and plant breeding efforts to enhance sustainable pest control.
    Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 10/2015; 156(4). DOI:10.1111/eea.12344 · 1.62 Impact Factor
    • "molecular markers used to investigate archaeological plant remains can uncover historical change in their diversity and provide useful information on domestication history (Jones et al. 1996; Brown 1999; Jones and Brown 2000; Benz 2001; Jaenicke-Després et al. 2003; Erickson et al. 2005; Zeder et al. 2006; Schlumbaum et al. 2008; Fuller 2012; Palmer et al. 2012). Such studies focused mostly on cereals and legumes (Fuller 2007, 2012; Purugganan and Fuller 2011). Ancient people used not only cereals and legumes, but also other crops and wild plants (D'Andrea et al. 1995; Crawford 2006; Matsui and Kanehara 2006). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Melon is a fruit/vegetable that has been grown in Japan for at least 2000 years. To obtain a better understanding of melon crop evolution in this island country, we measured the seed size and determined the cytoplasmic genotype of 135 modern melon accessions and 12 populations of ancient melon seed remains from archaeological sites for a 2000-year period in Japan. Based on differences in seed length, populations of melon seed remains at the Shikata site (Okayama Prefecture, Japan) consisted of seed types corresponding to those of modern East and South Asian melon. Although several types of melon seeds were found in and around the Shikata site, only Agrestis-type seeds, <6.1 mm in length, were found in melon populations from 1 CE. Intra-population length variation was higher in 1050 CE than in 1530–1680 CE. Ancient DNA from archaeological melon was analysed for SNPs in the chloroplast genome. These revealed that cytoplasm type was heterogeneous and consisted of Ia and Ib types in melon populations prior to ca. 1600 CE, and thereafter becoming homogenous by genetic erosion of Ib, which is absent in modern endemic Japanese melon accessions. The decrease in variation of both seed length and cytoplasm type together with historical records indicates that artificial selection in the Japanese melons for desired fruit traits intensified in the past 1000 years.
    Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 09/2015; DOI:10.1007/s10722-015-0314-7 · 1.46 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Archaeobotanical research resulted in the abandonment of the hypothesis of a single core area for the origins of agriculture within the Fertile Crescent [11] [12]. The accumulated record of archaeobotanical assemblages with different proportions of wild and domesticated species supported the model of protracted domestication lasting up to 2000 years ([2] [11] [13] [14], but see also [15] for a different opinion). The term " protracted domestication " is often used with absolute chronological designations, for example, marking the time range between BioMed Research International large-scale systematic gathering of wild cereals at Ohalo II around 23.000 BP and the appearance of the first domesticated species during the PPNB [13], contrasted with possible " rapid domestication " resulting from the intentional selection of domesticated phenotypes which may take place within a few cereal generations [16]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The evidence for the slow development from gathering and cultivation of wild species to the use of domesticates in the Near East, deriving from a number of Epipalaeolithic and aceramic Neolithic sites with short occupational stratigraphies, cannot explain the reasons for the protracted development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. The botanical and faunal remains from the long stratigraphic sequence of Chogha Golan, indicate local changes in environmental conditions and subsistence practices that characterize a site-specific pathway into emerging agriculture. Our multidisciplinary approach demonstrates a long-term subsistence strategy of several hundred years on wild cereals and pulses as well as on hunting a variety of faunal species that were based on relatively favorable and stable environmental conditions. Fluctuations in the availability of resources after around 10.200 cal BP may have been caused by small-scale climatic fluctuations. The temporary depletion of resources was managed through a shift to other species which required minor technological changes to make these resources accessible and by intensification of barley cultivation which approached its domestication. After roughly 200 years, emmer domestication is apparent, accompanied by higher contribution of cattle in the diet, suggesting long-term intensification of resource management.
    BioMed Research International 09/2015; 2015(6):1-22. DOI:10.1155/2015/532481 · 1.58 Impact Factor
Show more