Yam genomics supports West Africa as a major cradle of crop domestication (Sci Advances)

Yams (Dioscorea spp.) were domesticated independently in three continents. African yam (Dioscorea rotundata) is the second most produced crop in Africa, after cassava but ahead of maize, rice and sorghum. Scarcelli et al. use a genomic approach to learn more about its domestication, by sequencing many varieties of the domesticated species as well as its two closest wild relatives. Through this work they identified signatures of selection for several genes contributing to domestication, including genes that would promote larger, starchy tubers. Alongside other studies of African crops, “these results greatly refine our understanding of West African crops domestication history and identify a major cradle of domestication in West Africa, geographically localized around the Niger River, comparable to the Fertile Crescent in the Near East.” (Summary by Mary Williams) Sci Advances 10.1126/sciadv.aaw1947