It is a lunchbox staple so ubiquitous as to have become mundane. But the apple we know today is the fruit of an extraordinary journey, researchers have revealed. Scientists studying the genetics of the humble apple have unpicked how the cultivated species emerged as traders travelled back and forth along the Silk Road– ancient routes running from the far east to the Mediterranean sea. Published in the journal Nature Communications by researchers from the US and China, the study focuses on genetic data from 117 different varieties of apple. These encompassed 24 species ranging from wild apples found in North America and China to domestic apples including ancient, cultivated varieties as well as those found in our supermarkets.
“Our research is the first whole genome level analysis about apples’ evolutionary history,” said Yang Bai, co-author of the research from the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University.