Origin of extant domesticated sunflowers in eastern North America

Nature. 2004 Jul 8;430(6996):201-5. doi: 10.1038/nature02710.


Eastern North America is one of at least six regions of the world where agriculture is thought to have arisen wholly independently. The primary evidence for this hypothesis derives from morphological changes in the archaeobotanical record of three important crops--squash, goosefoot and sunflower--as well as an extinct minor cultigen, sumpweed. However, the geographical origins of two of the three primary domesticates--squash and goosefoot--are now debated, and until recently sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) has been considered the only undisputed eastern North American domesticate. The discovery of 4,000-year-old domesticated sunflower remains from San Andrés, Tabasco, implies an earlier and possibly independent origin of domestication in Mexico and has stimulated a re-examination of the geographical origin of domesticated sunflower. Here we describe the genetic relationships and pattern of genetic drift between extant domesticated strains and wild populations collected from throughout the USA and Mexico. We show that extant domesticates arose in eastern North America, with a substantial genetic bottleneck occurring during domestication.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / history*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Drift*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Genetics, Population
  • Helianthus / classification
  • Helianthus / genetics*
  • History, Ancient
  • Mexico
  • Phylogeny
  • Time Factors
  • United States