Summary and conclusions

The examples discussed in this chapter reveal the intimate relationship between reticulation and the origin and evolution of plant-based foods. As with the subjects covered in the previous two chapters, not all possible examples were included in the present chapter. For example, I did not detail the many hybrid species from the family Brassicaceae (e.g., from the genus Brassica; Yang et al. 2002) that provide critical foodstuffs for human populations. Yet, the taxa in the preceding sections reflect not only the diversity of plant foods isolated by H. sapiens from admixed lineages, but also the array of reticulate processes yielding these lineages. Postdomestication introgressive hybridization between cultivar lineages, or between cultivars and their wild progenitors, or between cultivars and unrelated wild taxa have contributed to the genetic and phenotypic structure of present-day plant domesticates. However, even the biological starting material—that is, the progenitors of our cultivars—exhibit admixed genomes. Some of these reflect allopolyploidization, while others are the products of introgression between divergent lineages. In sum, our plant-based foods, as with the animals that provide most of our meat protein, are of reticulate origin and thus demonstrate our continued dependence on products from the web of life for nourishment.

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