Today I learned that juicy, delicious, red tomatoes may have gained their striking color thanks to the devastating impact of a meteorite 60-70M years ago.
Yep, the fall of the dinosaurs gave rise to red tomatoes. At least, that’s according to a new study presented by researchers involved in the “Tomato Genome Research Project.” René Klein Lankhorst, a member of the team, told PhysOrg that by comparing the modern day tomato genome to close relatives like nightshade and other members of the potato family, they were able to notice some interesting deviations that happened around the time of the dinosaur extinction event. One massive one: The genome of the original tomato suddenly tripled in size.
“Such a big genome expansion points to extremely stressful conditions,’ says René Klein Lankhorst, the Wageningen UR coordinator of the tomato genome research project. ‘We suspect that the meteorite crash and the resulting solar eclipse had created conditions difficult for plants to survive. A distant ancestor of the tomato plant then reacted by expanding its genome considerably in order to increase its chances of survival.”
According to PhysOrg, when conditions on Earth improved, the tomato jettisoned a great deal of its “genetic ballast”, but the red color and ability to produce edible fruit remained.
Of course, this begs the questions: What in the world did tomatoes look like back in the time of dinosaurs?
Check out the full article over on PhyOrg here.
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