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Origin of extant domesticated sunflowers in eastern North America


Eastern North America is one of at least six regions of the world where agriculture is thought to have arisen wholly independently1,2,3,4,5. The primary evidence for this hypothesis derives from morphological changes in the archaeobotanical record of three important crops—squash, goosefoot and sunflower—as well as an extinct minor cultigen, sumpweed1,3. However, the geographical origins of two of the three primary domesticates—squash and goosefoot—are now debated6,7, and until recently sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) has been considered the only undisputed eastern North American domesticate. The discovery of 4,000-year-old domesticated sunflower remains from San Andrés, Tabasco8,9, implies an earlier and possibly independent origin of domestication in Mexico and has stimulated a re-examination of the geographical origin of domesticated sunflower. Here we describe the genetic relationships and pattern of genetic drift between extant domesticated strains and wild populations collected from throughout the USA and Mexico. We show that extant domesticates arose in eastern North America, with a substantial genetic bottleneck10 occurring during domestication.

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Figure 1: Map of sampling locations, archaeological sites and Native American groups.
Figure 2: Results of domesticated H. annuus ancestry analysis.
Figure 3: Comparisons of genetic drift in wild populations (colours correspond to local area model source clusters) and domesticated strains (in black).


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We thank C. B. Heiser, Jr for advice throughout the course of this study and for reading an earlier version of the manuscript. We thank J. Pritchard for advice concerning implementation of the admixture model and A. Hwang and J. Durphy for assistance with the genotyping of the domesticates and Mexican populations, respectively. The analyses were made possible via access to the UNIX computing cluster provided by the University Information Technology Services department, Indiana University. This work was supported by grants from the NSF, the USDA and the National Geographic Society.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Abigail V. Harter.

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Methods

Provides details of the admixture model as implemented in population structure analysis of wild H. annuus and in the ancestry analysis of domesticated sunflower. Also provides details on methods employed to generate the neighbor-joining tree. (DOC 30 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

Provides information on collection localities. (DOC 36 kb)

Supplementary Table 2

Provides information on loci used in genotyping individuals. (DOC 33 kb)

Supplementary Table 3

Provides diversity measures for each wild population and domesticate strain as well as comparisons of extant diversity in wild H. annuus versus domesticated sunflower. (DOC 34 kb)

Supplementary Table 4

Provides all estimates of drift in each wild population versus each domesticate strain for all runs of the F model as well as the 90% credibility region around our estimates from the final run. (XLS 62 kb)

Supplementary Figure 1

Illustrates the estimated population structure in wild H. annuus for K = 2 clusters using the full data set. (PDF 227 kb)

Supplementary Figure 2

Illustrates the estimated population structure in wild H. annuus for K = 2 clusters using the subdivided data set. (PDF 228 kb)

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Harter, A., Gardner, K., Falush, D. et al. Origin of extant domesticated sunflowers in eastern North America. Nature 430, 201–205 (2004).

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