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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Origin and Genetic Affinities of Wild Populations of Melon (Cucumis Melo L.,CUCURBITACEAE) in North America

Authors
item Decker-Walters, Deena - CUCURBIT NETWK MIAMI FL
item Chung, Sang Min - UW DEPT OF HORT MADISON
item Staub, Jack
item Quedmada, Hector - WMU DEPT BIO SCI KALAMAZO
item Lopez-Sese, Ana - UW DEPT OF HORT MADISON

Submitted to: Plant Systematics and Evolution
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 10, 2001
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Melon is a morphologically (visual characteristics) diverse (different, broad) species composed of tropical and subtropical wild and cultivated market types. There have been numerous and conflicting classifications of melon plants over the past 150 years. Today, wild populations of melon range throughout most of Africa, across southern Asia, into Australia and the Pacific Islands, and throughout warmer regions of the Americas. Africa is believe to be the center of origin for melon. However, origins of domestication of melon by man may be multiple. A study was designed to determine the origin of wild melon populations found in the southwestern and southeastern U.S. We collected seeds from wild melon plants and subjected them to DNA (basic genetic code for life) analysis using biotechnological tools. We discovered that wild melon plants in the U.S. were genetically different from wild African plants. This information is useful to the plant geneticists for studies involving evolution and domestication of crop species in the U.S. and to ecologists who are studying the transfer of genes (DNA that results in traits that we see visually) crop plants (e.g., cultivated melon) to wild species and vice versa. From these data scientists can predict the exchange of genes and determine the effect of the transfer of genes from cultivated (including genetically engineered plants) to wild species to assess ecological risk.

Technical Abstract: The origins of wild melon (Cucumis melo L.) populations in the New World have been in question since their initial description in the mid-nineteenth century by Charles Naudin. Typically, these populations have been assumed to represent escaped forms of cultivated var. chito or dudaim, and have been labeled accordingly, or more rarely as var, agrestis. To clarify the origins of New World melons, RAPD and SSR data were collected for 42 North American populations, 10 cultivar accessions of var. chito and dudaim, 10 other small-furited Old World accessions and 4 other varieties of C. melo-vars. conomon, flexuousus, inodorus, and cantalupensis. New World, chito, and dudaim accessions were also studied in detail with respect to 45 quantitative and 10 qualitative morphological and physiological characters. All data revealed that New World populations are distinct, and should be classified as var. texanus Naudin. This variety appears to most closely related to var. chito. From these data scientists can predict the exchange of genes and determine the effect of the transfer of genes from cultivated (including genetically engineered plants) to wild species to assess ecological risk.

Last Modified: 9/22/2014
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