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.
India has rice stuff, rices to occasion
India’s Financial Express has an interesting article on India’s efforts to breed better rice, including by using … gasp … biotechnology!
Orchards good for … ahem … wildlife
According to this article in The Independent, “Nature conservationists have called on the Government to protect Britain’s traditional orchards from further destruction, on the grounds that cultivated fruit trees provide a rich habitat for wildlife.” Good to see that their value in providing a rich habitat for traditional varieties of fruit trees is not going unnoticed!