Thursday, April 4, 2013

Eggplants are delicious

We've been trying to introduce a variety of foods and cultures to the Little Bear. A few weeks ago I made some eggplant stir-fry with rice, and let the Little Bear test out some chopsticks.

I was wondering about eggplants, so decided to look them up. Diversity (genetic differences) among eggplants in three regions (Sri Lanka, China, and Spain) was recently studied by Maria Hurtado and colleagues. Both the physical differences and the genetic differences were highest among the Sri Lankan eggplants, which suggests that they are closer to the location of the founder population, than either the Chinese or Spanish eggplants. Curiously, physical and genetic diversity were also quite high among the Chinese and Spanish eggplants, with very little physical and genetic diversity shared across eggplants from all three regions.

Wow! That's a lot of diversity!
Thus, it seems like eggplants originated somewhere near the region occupied by modern India, but quickly spread North, going both East, and West.

Interestingly, the authors state in their conclusion that differential selection acting on the three populations accounts for the differences observed between them:
At the morphological level, a clear differentiation exists among the different origins, indicating that different selection criteria have been applied in each secondary center of diversity, leading to a typical syndrome of traits for each origin.
While selection (particularly artificial human selection for specific traits) may be acting, it is also possible that much of the differences are simply due the diversity that happened to be present in the subset of eggplants that were taken and cultivated in each area. Or, the eggplants in the different regions were cultivated in a short time span from the founder population, then we might expect diversity to be quite high in all populations, without needing to invoke selection. The observed differences may merely represent neutral variation. It would be interesting to see a test for this.

Oh yeah, I was talking about chopsticks. The chopsticks went over pretty well, and the eggplant was delicious. A win with everyone:

Trying chopsticks
Not too bad at getting food from bowl to mouth.

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41748. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041748. Epub 2012 Jul 27.
Diversity and relationships of eggplants from three geographically distant secondary centers of diversity.
Hurtado M, Vilanova S, Plazas M, Gramazio P, Fonseka HH, Fonseka R, Prohens J.
Instituto de Conservación y Mejora de la Agrodiversidad Valenciana, Universitat Politècnica de València, Valencia, Spain.


J.J. Emerson said...

Amazing! Already with the chopsticks?!?

mathbionerd said...

Oh, they're more used for stabbing, but we're trying.