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Using ancient DNA to investigate the origins and dispersal of the domesticated sunflower

Tuesday 7 January 2020, 1.00PM

Speaker(s): Dr Nathan Wales, BioArCh, Department of Archaeology, University of York

Palaeogenomic testing of archaeological seeds and other well-preserved plant tissues has the potential to reveal new insights on plant domestication, the spread of cultivars, and adaptation to new environments. Many research groups have focused on domesticated species of the grass family Poaceae, but here I discuss how ancient DNA methodologies can be used to explore the cultivation history of other crops, in particular the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Through genome-wide testing of desiccated achenes and sunflower heads our research team is untangling the origins of one of the only domesticates native to the Eastern United States. By testing specimens dating hundreds to thousands of years in age, we are reaching a better understanding of sunflower’s domestication bottleneck and the loci under selection throughout its cultivation history. As modern cultivars have undergone recent breeding and crossing with other members of Helianthus, these archaeogenomes can provide an important perspective on the impact of selection and introgression for future breeding programmes. 

More information on Dr Nathan Wales

Location: Dianna Bowles Lecture Theatre (B/K/018)