Where in the World did Yams come from?
I always find myself downloading and reading phylogeography or population genetics papers about my favorite foods! I think it’s interesting how much diversity there is even though we only eat a few varieties. This paper (sub) observed deep divergence (50 MYA) in nine clades of yams (genus Dioscorea, that has over 600 species). Yams originated in Laurasia (the northern supercontinent of Pangea) before spreading out around the world, they are now found on every continent except Antarctica.
Epigenetics in Evolutionary Rescue
We’re learning more about epigenetics all the time, so it won’t be much longer until researchers link these ideas to their usefulness for species conservation. Epigenetic studies look at how chemical tags on DNA effect gene expression. These changes may be in response to new environments encountered by an organism, and may or may not be passed to the new generation. This paper (open) hypothesizes that epigenetic variation in populations can buffer against environmental change, allowing populations to persist until adaptations to the new environment are gained.