The Discovery of Wild Date Palms in Oman Reveals a Complex Domestication History Involving Centers in the Middle East and Africa

Muriel Gros-Balthazard, Marco Galimberti, Athanasios Kousathanas, Claire Newton, Sarah Ivorra, Laure Paradis, Yves Vigouroux, Robert Carter, Margareta Tengberg, Vincent Battesti, Sylvain Santoni, Laurent Falquet, Jean Christophe Pintaud, Jean Frédéric Terral, Daniel Wegmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For many crops, wild relatives constitute an extraordinary resource for cultivar improvement [1, 2] and also help to better understand the history of their domestication [3]. However, the wild ancestor species of several perennial crops have not yet been identified. Perennial crops generally present a weak domestication syndrome allowing cultivated individuals to establish feral populations difficult to distinguish from truly wild populations, and there is frequently ongoing gene flow between wild relatives and the crop that might erode most genetic differences [4]. Here we report the discovery of populations of the wild ancestor species of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.), one of the oldest and most important cultivated fruit plants in hot and arid regions of the Old World. We discovered these wild individuals in remote and isolated mountainous locations of Oman. They are genetically more diverse than and distinct from a representative sample of Middle Eastern cultivated date palms and exhibit rounded seed shapes resembling those of a close sister species and archeological samples, but not modern cultivars. Whole-genome sequencing of several wild and cultivated individuals revealed a complex domestication history involving the contribution of at least two wild sources to African cultivated date palms. The discovery of wild date palms offers a unique chance to further elucidate the history of this iconic crop that has constituted the cornerstone of traditional oasis polyculture systems for several thousand years [5].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2211-2218.e8
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 24 2017


  • Phoenix atlantica
  • Phoenix dactylifera
  • Phoenix sylvestris
  • crop domestication
  • date palm
  • demographic inference
  • genome annotation
  • microsatellites
  • seed morphometrics
  • whole-genome sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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