HomeScience and ResearchScientific ResearchAn Unexpected Twist to 200-yr-Old Debate On Jackfruit Cousin

An Unexpected Twist to 200-yr-Old Debate On Jackfruit Cousin

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Artocarpus odoratissimus, a fruit-bearing tree native to Borneo and the Philippines, was described by a Spanish botanist over 200 years ago.

The Iban people of Borneo recognize two different types of the tree, which they refer to as lumok and pingan, respectively, based on the size and shape of the fruit.

Despite this, Western botanists have traditionally regarded the tree as a single species, but DNA research published in the journal Current Biology on June 6 verifies the Iban people’s claims.

Lumok pingan and lumok amat fruits

Scientists gathered DNA samples from trees in Malaysian Borneo and historical herbarium specimens to determine the correct taxonomy of the tree, which is in the same genus as the plants that yield meaty jackfruit.

They used phylogenetic analysis and DNA microsatellites to show that while lumok and pingan are genetically related, they are genetically separate species.

The scientists suggest that the trees be renamed to reflect this, adding that it’s past time for taxonomy studies to include Indigenous names.

Researchers led by Florida International University botanist Elliot M. Gardner (@elliotmgarden), a Malaysian scientist and an Iban field botanist, write that “while Linnaean taxonomy offers a broad framework for global comparisons, it may lack the detailed local insights possessed by Indigenous peoples.”

“Time is of the essence,” Gardner and colleagues write, “because just as biodiversity is under threat of climate change, Indigenous knowledge—itself protected under Article 8(j) of the Convention on Biological Diversity—is threatened by societal change.”

Image Credit: Gardener et al./Current Biology

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