From Madison, Wis., at a meeting of the Botanical Society of America
Comparison between crop and wild sunflower genes suggests that the plant followed an easy route to domestication.
Archaeologists estimate that people transformed wild sunflowers into a user-friendly form some 4,000 years ago, explains John M. Burke, now at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. The shift conferred traits such as self-fertilization and bigger seeds.
To examine the underlying genetics, Burke and Loren Rieseberg of Indiana University in Bloomington crossed a plant of a commercial variety with a wild sunflower and then let the offspring self-fertilize. After a second round of sunflower self-fertilization, the pair used genetic markers to locate stret