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The Apple's Journey

The apple has traveled widely, moving along the Silk Road, the Guardian reports.

Researchers from the US and China sequenced 117 apple accessions from 24 species, including cultivated and wild apples. As they report in Nature Communications this week, the researchers found that cultivated apples likely descend from the Malus sieversii of Kazakhstan, though underwent interbreeding with M. sylvestris, the European crabapple.

In particular, the researchers estimate that cultivated apples are some 46 percent M. sieversii from Kazakhstan, 21 percent European crabapple, and 33 percent unknown, according to the Guardian. They note that the Kazakhstan apples likely gave the cultivated ones their size, while crabapples contributed to their taste.

They add that the Kazakhstan apples also travel eastward to China, contributing to dessert apples.

"The traders go across the Eurasian continent both ways," co-author Yang Bai from Cornell University tells the Guardian. "They spread those ancestral seeds along their way."

The researchers point out that M. sieversii also grows in the Xinjiang region of China, though their analysis indicates that those apples didn't contribute to domestication. "Those apples are not getting involved in any of the domestic apples – they are a lost jewel hidden there in the Xinjiang area," Bai adds.

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