FIU Geneticist studies history of mangoes

Posted by Evelyn Perez 

× 06/14/2016 at 11:54 am

Nothing says summer like a ripe, juicy mango.

The sweet fruit is the basis of many recipes and is found in juices, smoothies, sorbets and preserves. Oftentimes, it’s simply picked and eaten fresh off the tree. Enjoyed by many throughout the world, the health of mango yields are at risk due to drought, disease and climate change.

Biology Ph.D. student Emily Warschefsky is studying the genetic diversity and evolutionary history of mangoes.

Biology student Emily Warschefsky is studying the genetic diversity in wild varieties of mango and how the crop has evolved over time through domestication. During domestication, crops typically lose genetic diversity resulting in the loss of beneficial traits. Warschefsky’s research will ultimately help breeders maximize positive genetic traits and produce mangoes that can tolerate harsh conditions and resist disease.

“A lot of what we know about domestication in plants comes from annual plant species, those that bloom over spring and summer and reproduce once before they die in autumn, and it doesn’t really apply to long-lived trees like mangoes,” said Warschefsky, a Ph.D. student in FIU’s von Wettberg Conservation Genetics Lab

“This research will help fill that knowledge gap.”

Originally from southeast Asia, mangoes were first domesticated in India more than 4,000 years ago and made their way to Africa and the Americas as people made their way west. Today, they are grown and consumed on six continents, and it is considered one the world’s most important tropical fruits.

With the peak of mango season under way, Warschefsky and other environmental and humanities scholars will lead talks and tours of mango collections from around the world at The Kampong in Coconut Grove, Fla., Thurs., June 16.

 Titled “The History of the World in Your Own Backyard: Mangoes and Mango Trees,” the event is hosted by the FIU Department of History, The Kampong and Catalyst Miami.