Genomic Insights into the Origins of the Sycamore Fig in the Mediterranean Basin

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2018-05
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Vance, Natalie
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Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology seeks to teach the studies of ecology (organisms and their environment), evolutionary theory (the origin and interrelationships of organisms), and organismal biology (the structure, function, and biodiversity of organisms). In doing this, it offers several majors which are codirected with other departments, including biology, genetics, and environmental sciences.

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The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology was founded in 2003 as a merger of the Department of Botany, the Department of Microbiology, and the Department of Zoology and Genetics.

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2003–present

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The sycamore fig (Ficus sycomorus) has been a culturally important tree in North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Because modern trees in this region lack their specialized pollinator and do not produce seed, we hypothesize that they comprise only one to a few clones propagated asexually from cuttings originating thousands of years ago in sub-Saharan Africa. Genotype by Sequencing (GBS) of 46 sycamore fig samples from north of the Sahara revealed them to represent five distinct clonal lineages. Although clones tend to have restricted geographic distributions, trees from Cyprus trace their origins to northern Egypt, Lebanon, and a third unknown source location. These results support the hypothesis that F. sycomorus north of the Sahara is entirely asexual and traces its clonal ancestry to a small number of cuttings originating in sub-Saharan Africa.
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