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Did a Meteorite Crash Cause Tomatoes to Become Red?

Why
are tomatoes red? Research by Dutch scientists discovered that a stressful
event millions of years ago, like a meteorite crash, triggered the change
in the plant’s genome:

"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."

When conditions subsequently improved again, this ancestor of
the tomato got rid of a lot of genetic ballast, but the genetic base
for fruit formation had already been developed by then, the tomato fruit
acquired its red colour and certain genes which produced toxins disappeared,
says Klein Lankhorst. In this way, the tomato differentiates itself
from a family member, the potato, which has no edible fruits.

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Date
June 14th, 2012

Author
Stranger to the World

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