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Nature Papers Map Genetic Variation in Chickpeas, Analyze Spread of Transeurasian Languages

A genetic variation map for the chickpea is presented in this week's Nature, providing a resource for improving this crop plant. To build the map, an international team led by scientists from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and BGI-Shenzhen sequenced 3,366 chickpea germplasm lines, including 3,171 cultivated and 195 wild accessions, and constructed a chickpea pan-genome. Among their findings are chromosomal segments and genes that show signatures of selection during domestication, migration, and improvement. They also uncover superior haplotypes for improvement-related traits in landraces that can be introgressed into elite breeding lines through haplotype-based breeding and targets for purging deleterious alleles through genomics-assisted breeding and/or gene editing. The investigators also propose crop breeding strategies based on genomic prediction to enhance chickpea productivity for 16 traits while avoiding the erosion of genetic diversity through optimal contribution selection-based pre-breeding.

By combining genetics, archaeology, and linguistics, a group led by investigators from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have uncovered new clues about the origin of the Transeurasian language family, which includes Japanese, Korean, Tungusic, Mongolic, and Turkic, though the linguistic relatedness of the Transeurasian languages is highly disputed. To gain insights, the researchers analyzed a variety of datasets including comprehensive Transeurasian agropastoral and basic vocabulary, an archaeological database of 255 Neolithic-Bronze Age sites from Northeast Asia, and a collection of ancient genomes from Korea, the Ryukyu islands, and early cereal farmers in Japan that complement previously published genomes from East Asia. As reported in Nature, they show that the common ancestry and primary dispersals of Transeurasian languages can be traced back to the first farmers moving across Northeast Asia from the Early Neolithic onwards, but that this shared heritage has been masked by extensive cultural interaction since the Bronze Age. The findings contradict the pastoralist hypothesis that identifies the primary dispersals of the Transeurasian languages with nomadic expansions starting in the eastern steppe around 2,000 BC to 1,000 BC. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.