Is biofortification still the next big thing, or is it yesterday’s news already? Anyway, here’s an article on an Australia-Uganda collaboration on bananas funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But Pohnpei nutritionist Dr Lois Englberger has reminded me that foods do not contain vitamin A, as implied in the article. They contain vitamin A precursors, provitamin A carotenoids, mainly beta-carotene, which the body uses to synthesize vitamin A.
There’s an alpaca improvement project based at the Munay Paq’ocha laboratory (“beautiful alpaca” in Quechua) in a place called Macusani in the highlands of southern Peru where they measure follicle density, fibre diameter and elasticity and use the data to choose the best parents for their breeding programme. The BBC is there. See also this piece on the use of microchips to track the alpaca herd.
Why was the Somali wild ass domesticated and not, say, the zebra? It’s a cantankerous animal at best. Washington University archaeologist Fiona Marshall is travelling the world looking at bones and wild populations, but she is also studying the behaviour of the St Louis Zoo’s five wild asses with Zoo researcher Cheryl Asa to seek “clues as to how they were turned into donkeys,” according to this article.
The whole thing turned out to be probably based on a mis-translation, but a story that the Chinese were trying to make and market “tequila” has led to this rapid-fire, rather fun run-through the concept of geographic indications in Salon’s How the World Works section. Actually, geographic indications may turn out to be a very useful form of IPRs for developing country products based on biodiversity.
EurekAlert summarizes work by Mark Ungerer and his colleagues at Kansas State University which is set to appear in the 24 October issue of Current Biology. They
determined that the genome size differences between … hybrid and parental sunflower species are associated with a massive proliferation of transposable genetic elements that has occurred independently in the genome of each hybrid species.
This is interesting because each of the three hybrid species studied has evolved under strong abiotic stress (in deserts, salt marshes). It has been suggested that both hybridization and abiotic stress can activate and lead to the multiplication of transposable elements, making this a potentially very valuable model system.