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Domestication Syndrome in Caimito (Chrysophyllum cainito L.): Fruit and Seed Characteristics


Domestication Syndrome in Caimito (Chrysophyllum cainitoL.): Fruit and Seed Characteristics: The process of domestication is understudied and poorly known for many tropical fruit tree crops. The star apple or caimito tree (Chrysophyllum cainito L., Sapotaceae) is cultivated throughout the New World tropics for its edible fruits. We studied this species in central Panama, where it grows wild in tropical moist forests and is also commonly cultivated in backyard gardens. Using fruits collected over two harvest seasons, we tested the hypothesis that cultivated individuals of C. cainito show distinctive fruit and seed characteristics associated with domestication relative to wild types. We found that cultivated fruits were significantly and substantially larger and allocated more to pulp and less to exocarp than wild fruits. The pulp of cultivated fruits was less acidic; also, the pulp had lower concentrations of phenolics and higher concentrations of sugar. The seeds were larger and more numerous and were less defended with phenolics in cultivated than in wild fruits. Discriminant Analysis showed that, among the many significant differences, fruit size and sugar concentration drove the great majority of the variance distinguishing wild from cultivated classes. Variance of pulp phenolics among individuals was significantly higher among wild trees than among cultivated trees, while variance of fruit mass and seed number was significantly higher among cultivated trees. Most traits showed strong correlations between years. Overall, we found a clear signature of a domestication syndrome in the fruits of cultivated caimito in Panama.

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