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June 7th, 2017 / Phys.org

Bananas are one of the most important staple crops of the tropics, transported with great care over great distances to satisfy the world’s appetite. And today, with more than half the world’s bananas coming from a single, Cavendish variety, they may increasingly become susceptible to funguses that threaten its livelihood, such as the devastating Panama disease.

That’s why scientists have been eager to understand the mysteries of its genome. Cavendish fruits have no seeds, do not sexually reproduce (and therefore are genetically identical), and have three sets of chromosomes (triploid), which made its genome very difficult to sequence.

The origins of Cavendish bananas come from several Musa acuminata subspecies that diverged after being geographically isolated in distinct Southeast Asian regions and islands. As with other domesticated crops, it is thought that human migrations helped lead to the emergence of subspecies and hybrids with a consequence—-reduced fertility——but prized for their delectable fruits with high flesh and low seed content. Read more