My goal for this chapter was to emphasize the wide array of biological products from which humans have benefited that derive from lineages marked by reticulate evolution. That H. sapiens has not realized, until recently, that these plants, animals, and microorganisms reflect genetic exchange is immaterial to the significant role they have assumed in the cultural development and the survival of human populations. The degree to which the processes of hybrid speciation and introgressive hybridization have produced the biological characteristics exploited by humans is not known for many of the examples. However, those for which strong inferences of hybrid origin of the traits can be made (e.g., cotton, coffee, and chocolate) indicate the potential for reticulate origin of adaptations important for both the organism itself and H. sapiens.
In Chapters 6 and 7, I will continue the discussion of organisms that benefit our species. However, in these chapters I will review only those organisms from which we derive food products. As I stated previously, some of the examples presented in Chapter 5 have also been the source of food (e.g., dogs, cats, and water buffalo). Likewise, many of the examples presented in the following chapter have uses besides as a food source (e.g., sheep provide material for clothing). However, they have been chosen to highlight our use of reticulate lineages as sources for our dietary requirements.
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