The family history of bananas

Recently, scientists have sequenced the complete genome of the banana and some insightful information can be cleaned from that. Now, for the first time we can be certain which other species can be regarded as direct relatives of the banana.

The banana is a giant herb and close family members include rice (Oryza sativa) and ginger (Zingiber officinale).

Around 65  Million years ago a giant meteorite smashed into the coastal area of eastern Mexico. That event heralded the end of the age of the dinosaurs but it also had a profound effect on other species, such as plants. The genome of the tomato was altered[1] as a result of the changing conditions on the planet. It was tripled in size in order to survive. Lycopene was formed and since then it got its red colour. Other genes disappeared, making it non-toxic.
[Image from scientific article]
The banana was affected too by that event and the genome is suggesting that two Whole-Genome Duplications (WGDs), denoted as α and β, occurred in that period, that is called the Cretaceous–Tertiary boundary[2].

[1] The Tomato Genome Consortsium: The tomato genome sequence provides insights into fleshy fruit evolution in Nature - 2012
[2] D'Hont et al: The banana (Musa acuminata) genome and the evolution of monocotyledonous plants in Nature - 2012

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