Coconut: origin and east-west spread from Asia
- That over 12 million hectares of coconut are grown across 89 tropical countries is proof enough of their geographical spread. But whether the coconuts (Cocos nucifera L.), belonged to the same genetic type or were admixtures was not known till recently. That question has been finally answered.
According to a paper published recently in the PLoS ONE journal, coconuts have just two well defined and differentiated populations representing two separate locations where they were cultivated — the Pacific basin and the Indo-Atlantic Ocean basin. “This pattern suggests independent origins of coconut cultivation in these two world regions,” the authors state.
Earlier attempts to find their place of origin were constrained as they were based on morphology and not DNA studies. However, the current study used DNA analysis. About 1,300 coconuts from different parts of the world were collected for the study.
The authors found that coconuts of the Pacific basin (Group A) occur primarily in the region spanning Southeast Asia to the Pacific coast of America. The other group (Group B), which represents the Indo-Atlantic Ocean basin, spans from South Asia to the Caribbean (via West Africa and the New World Atlantic).
Those that contain genetic evidence of admixture occur primarily in the southwestern Indian Ocean.
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