Unraveling the enigma of date palm cultivation in the Levantine region: Integrating genomic and seed morphometric approaches
ID: 613 / 448
Proposed Symposium Title: Unraveling the enigma of date palm cultivation in the Levantine region: Integrating genomic and seed morphometric approaches
Ernesto Testé1,2, *, Guy Bar-Oz1, Roy Galili1, Meirav Meiri3, Sarah Ivorra4, Jean-Frédéric Terral4, Daniel Fuks5 & Muriel Gros-Balthazard2
Affiliations: 1 University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel 2 Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Montpellier, France 3 Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel 4 Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution-Montpellier, Université de Montpellier/CNRS/IRD/EPHE, Montpellier, France 5 Cambridge University, Cambrige, UK
The origin and domestication of date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) is a complex and fascinating topic that has attracted the attention of researchers from different disciplines. Recent advances in population genomics and archaeobotany have shed new light on the evolutionary history of this crop. Notably, two distinct gene pools have been recognized in West Asia and North Africa. Positioned at the crossroads of these gene pools and civilizations for countless millennia, the Levant emerged as a pivotal region. However, many questions about palm dates in this region regarding their cultivation origin and evolutionary history still need to be discovered. Understanding these questions could be essential to have a global view of the origin, expansion, and diversification of this plant; also, it is crucial to understand the intermixed role of the connection of humans-date palm to the development of the Levant region. Through the comprehensive analysis of numerous modern and ancient genomes across the region, as well as seed morphometric data from both modern and archaeological seeds, we aim to study the intricate interplay of biological, ecological, historical, and human factors that have shaped the diverse landscape of date palms in the southern Levantine region. This multidisciplinary approach will provide invaluable insights into the demographic and selective processes that have influenced the diversity of date palms, facilitating the development of effective conservation and improvement programs. The length and shape of the seeds were obtained from hundreds of date palms collected from various Late Antique (first millennium CE) sites in the Negev desert of southern Israel. These seeds were compared with modern reference seeds from different Phoenix species, including date palms (cultivated/feral/wild). The diversity of these findings, spanning both time and space, enables the reconstruction of a significant chapter on date palm agrobiodiversity and horticulture in the region.