23 February 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

An ancient melon genome from Libya reveals interesting insights regarding watermelon relatives

The earliest known seeds from a watermelon related were discovered during an archaeological dig in Libya, going back 6,000 years to the Neolithic period. An examination of these seeds performed by biologist Susanne S. Renner of Washington University in St. Louis offers some surprises about how our ancestors used a predecessor of today’s watermelon.

These results and two new genomes of ancient seeds are published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Scientists generally agree that watermelons came from Africa, but exactly where and when watermelons with red, sweet flesh were first domesticated from their wild form is debatable. The most recent data point to watermelon getting its start in the Nile valley, which is consistent with archaeological evidence.

However, the very old seeds discovered at Uan Muhuggiag, a rock shelter in what is now the Sahara Desert in Libya, seemed at odds with this explanation. There was no way to be certain of their identity prior to this investigation.

“The oldest seeds of watermelons cannot be securely identified as either belonging to a sweet-pulped domesticated form, or instead to one of the bitter-pulped wild forms,” said Renner, an honorary professor of biology in Arts & Sciences. “The seeds of the seven species of Citrullus are basically undistinguishable.”

An sudden new perception from this examine is that Citrullus seems to have initially been collected or cultivated for its seeds, not its candy flesh, in step with seed injury patterns induced by human enamel within the oldest Libyan materials. Credit score: Molecular Biology and Evolution

“Now, having a chromosome-level genome, we can be sure that Neolithic Libyans were using a bitter-fleshed watermelon,” she said. “We suspect they used the fruits to get at the (numerous!) seeds, which even today are eaten air-dried or roasted or also boiled in soups or stews.”

Co-senior author Guillaume Chomicki, a National Environmental Research Council fellow at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, collected dozens of samples of watermelon and watermelon relatives from herbarium specimens in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as part of the quest to trace the path of watermelon’s domestication.

He and Renner also obtained much older samples: the 6,000-year-old Libyan seeds and another set of 3,300-year-old Sudanese seeds.

“These seeds were a riddle because they were thought to be the oldest true watermelon seeds,” Chomicki said. “Yet they were from Libya, which was never thought to be the cradle of watermelon domestication.”

The scientists generated genome sequences from the seeds from Libya and Sudan and from the herbarium collections, and analyzed these data together with resequenced genomes from important germplasm collections. They discovered that the oldest seeds came from a plant known as an egusi melon, a watermelon relative that is currently restricted to western Africa.

“Both plant ‘fossils’ were C-14 dated and, as far as we know, are among the oldest plant genomes ever obtained,” Renner said.

“An unexpected new insight is that Citrullus appears to have initially been collected or cultivated for its seeds, not its sweet flesh, consistent with seed damage patterns induced by human teeth in the oldest Libyan material,” Chomicki said. “This study documents the use of the seeds (rather than the fruit) of a watermelon relative more than 6,000 years ago, prior to the domestication of the watermelon.”

“Watermelons — the wild species, as well as the domesticated form — have very numerous seeds that are tasty and oil-rich,” Renner said. “Different from the pulp, the seeds never contain the extremely bitter cucurbitacin chemical. Snacking on those easily available nutritious seeds may have been a good thing.”

Washington University in St. Louis

Related Articles

The ruins of a thousand-year-old Buddhist Temple will be opened to the public in Kyrgyzstan

13 September 2022

13 September 2022

The unearthed remains of an ancient Buddhist temple in Kyrgyzstan will open to the public in mid-September as part of...

The Ancient City of Kilistra, Cappadocia of Konya’s

1 February 2021

1 February 2021

When we talk about fairy chimneys, churches and underground cities, the first place that comes to mind is Cappadocia between...

1900 years old a rare mosaic was discovered in Durrës, Albania

6 November 2023

6 November 2023

In the port city of Durrës, on the Adriatic Sea in western Albania, a unique mosaic dating back 1900 years...

Skeleton Of “Spanish Monk” in Palace of Cortés Turns Out To Be An Aztec Woman

26 January 2024

26 January 2024

Recent research at the Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca, Mexico, has revealed a grave historical error. For 50 years, it...

27,000-year-old Pendants made from giant sloths suggest earlier arrival of people in the Americas

16 July 2023

16 July 2023

Archaeologists discovered three pendants made from the bony material of an extinct giant sloth in a rock shelter in central...

Gold from the ancient cities of Troy, Poliochni, and Ur had the same Origin

3 December 2022

3 December 2022

Using an innovative mobile laser method, scientists determined that gold found in ancient Troy, Poliochini, and Ur had the same...

Arkeologists decipher hieroglyphics of a vessel found in the archaeological rescue of the Mayan Train

16 May 2022

16 May 2022

Based on the analysis of eleven glyphic cartouches inscribed into a ceramic pot, discovered in October 2021 during archaeological rescue...

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a stone circle in the Castilly Henge, located in Cornwall, England

20 May 2022

20 May 2022

Archaeologists have unearthed a mysterious stone circle at the center of a prehistoric ritual site near Bodmin in Cornwall, located...

Decapitated skeletons of Roman ‘criminals’ found on HS2 route

5 February 2022

5 February 2022

Archaeologists working with the HS2 project have discovered 425 bodies on the route of the new railway line – around...

Excavation of Carlisle Roman bathhouse uncovers a connection between the site and a third-century Roman emperor

27 September 2021

27 September 2021

Excavation of a Roman bath at the Carlisle Cricket Club in Stanwix, part of the Uncovering Roman Carlisle project, has...

‘Remarkable Archaeological Find’ Metal detectorist unearths Roman cavalry swords in North Cotswolds

18 September 2023

18 September 2023

Authorities announced Monday that two incredibly rare Roman cavalry swords were uncovered in the Cotswolds, England, during a metal detectorist...

Archaeologists discovered 130 dwellings around the Ringheiligtum Pömmelte monument “German Stonehenge”

15 June 2021

15 June 2021

Archaeologists have unearthed 130 dwellings at an Early Bronze Age monument in Germany, indicating that the ‘Stonehenge’ was once home...

The Splendor of the Seven Descending Gods of Tulum Resurfaced

11 February 2024

11 February 2024

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) says the splendor of the seven Descending Gods of Tulum has resurfaced....

1,800-year-old Roman remains discovered in valley of eastern Turkey

21 February 2022

21 February 2022

Roman remains dating back 1800 years have been found in a valley in eastern Turkey. Among the Roman ruins found...

1000-Year-Old Tomb Found in Perre Ancient City in southeast Turkey

1 July 2021

1 July 2021

A 1,000-year-old tomb was unearthed in the ancient city of Perre in Adiyaman province. Perre is one of the five...