Scientists have long thought that the vegetables originated in the Americas even though there have been studies suggesting the Western Hemisphere or Europe as more likely places of origin.
New research suggests that sweet potatoes originated in Asia. In their research, scientists at the Indiana University Bloomington analyzed several plant fossils. The findings appeared this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Lead author David Dilcher and his fellow researchers gained access to plant fossils that were millions of years old. The fossils were unearthed in India. Laboratory analyses revealed that the fossils likely belong to the family Convolvulaceae.
Sweet potatoes and morning glory belong to the Convolvulaceae family. Past studies found that this plant family first appeared in North America. But Dilcher’s team found that the family is much older than estimated and its place of origin was likely the East Gondwana landmass, which is now part of modern-day Asia.
In the research, study authors analyzed 17 plant fossils from the Convolvulaceae family. Some of the fossils were ancestors of morning glory and nightshade. The samples included the earliest known fossils of the two plants.
The research team analyzed the ancient plants’ features under the microscope and found that they may or may not have been sweet potatoes.
We can’t say there were delicious sweet potatoes there. There may have been, or there may not,
Dilcher told the press.
The samples belong to the Ipomoea genus, which includes morning glory and sweet potatoes. Researchers concluded that the sweet potato’s origins are likely in Asia, and the vegetable is much older than previously believed.
Image Source: PxHere
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