“What Did Corn’s Ancestor Really Look Like?”

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The Story

“What Did Corn’s Ancestor Really Look Like?”
by Helen Fields
Science, February 4, 2014

The Pitch

[Fields notes that she’s known the editor she pitched for this story for a long time, so the pitch is very informal.]

Any interest? The plant that corn is most closely related to is a South American grain called teosinte. But it’s a sad-looking, spindly grass, and it made no sense that people would have tried to cultivate it. For decades, scientists have debated whether teosinte is actually the right plant. For a new paper in the journal Quarternary International, researchers grew teosinte in atmospheric conditions similar to those that would have been around in the early Holocene, with lower temperatures and less CO2. Surprise: Teosinte looks totally different. Like corn! Now the decision to domesticate it makes a lot more sense.

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