Thursday, November 24, 2022

Genetic Markers Help Identify Banana Ancestors

 

In their search for the ancestors of modern day bananas, botanists and researchers have determined there to be at least three wild banana ancestors responsible for all the various types of bananas found around the world today, represented on the diverse banana family tree. The catch of course is these ancestors have yet to be found. An analysis of modern day banana's genetic material have lead Botanists like Julie Sardos and colleagues to pinpoint genetic markers on their DNA which in turn help with tracing this fruit back to its ancestors. The bananas we commonly see in grocery stores are really a product of years and centuries of crossbreeding and domestication. They only produce sterile seeds and therefore must be grown as hybrids using clones. Since they are all genetically identical, they have low genetic diversity and are susceptible to diseases and higher risks of going extinct. It is for this reason, Botanists and researchers have set out to find the ancestral bananas in hopes that their discovery would mean finding ways to strengthen the crops of modern breeds against threats to their very existence.  

This article is really about how genetic markers found on the DNA samples of numerous types of bananas made it possible to identify the genetic sequences of at least three unknown ancestors. Interestingly enough, we are currently learning about genetic mapping in class and this article connects really well with the topic because genetic markers, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute, are like landmarks in a geographical area. Landmarks are features which mark the area they are in making the area stand out as unique from others. They are helpful when we need to find our way back to somewhere. They are the big red X's on a treasure map that pinpoint the location of the treasure. Hopefully these genetic markers will help researchers successfully find these mysterious banana ancestors and save bananas from threats to their extinction. 


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