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College of Arts and Sciences Omar Cornejo

Cacao analysis dates domesticated trees back 3,600 years

Theobroma cacao tree fruitsResearchers analyzing the genomes of cultivated cacao trees have traced their origin to a “single domestication event” some 3,600 years ago. The discovery opens a new front in a long-running argument regarding when and where humans started growing the source of chocolate.

“This evidence increases our understanding of how humans moved and established in America,” said Omar Cornejo, a Washington State University population geneticist and lead author of an article on the study in » More …

It’s in the genes

Omar Cornejo and Joanna Kelley in their WSU labWhen Omar Cornejo got his genomic analysis back from 23andMe, he and his wife, fellow population geneticist Joanna Kelley, were both a bit surprised and vindicated. Venezuelan, Cornejo expected to see the alleles, or variations of a gene, from Native American, western European, and North African populations. But he was unaware that his family’s deep history also included ancestors from sub-Saharan Africa.

That just goes to show the importance of broadly sampling the genome, says Kelley. “The lesson is that if you just look at the mitochondria, you’d assume this person is from Africa. But if you look at just the Y chromosome, you’d assume that this is a Native American.” » More …