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Mol Biol Evol. 2006 May;23(5):893-900. Epub 2006 Jan 9.

Proceedings of the SMBE Tri-National Young Investigators' Workshop 2005. Reconstructing the origins and dispersal of the Polynesian bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria).

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  • 1Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


The origin of the Polynesian bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria), an important crop species in prehistoric Polynesia, has remained elusive. Most recently, a South American origin has been favored as the bottle gourd could have been introduced from this continent with the sweet potato by Polynesian voyagers around A.D. 1,000. To test the hypothesis of an American origin for the Polynesian bottle gourd, we developed seven markers specific to bottle gourd (two chloroplast and five nuclear). The nuclear markers were developed using a new technique where polymorphic inter simple sequence repeat (ISSR) markers are converted into single-locus polymerase chain reaction and sequencing markers--an approach that will be useful for developing markers in other taxa. All seven markers were sequenced in 36 cultivars of bottle gourd from Asia, the Americas, and Polynesia. The results support a dual origin for the Polynesian bottle gourd: the chloroplast markers are exclusively of Asian origin, but the nuclear markers show alleles originating in both the Americas and Asia. Because hybridization of Polynesian bottle gourds with post-European introductions cannot be excluded, ancient DNA from archaeological material will be useful for further elucidating the prehistoric movements of this species in Polynesia. This work has implications not only for the dispersal of the Polynesian bottle gourd but also for the domestication and dispersal of the species as a whole.

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