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The rise of baobab trees in Madagascar


The baobab trees (genus Adansonia) have attracted tremendous attention because of their striking shape and distinctive relationships with fauna1. These spectacular trees have also influenced human culture, inspiring innumerable arts, folklore and traditions. Here we sequenced genomes of all eight extant baobab species and argue that Madagascar should be considered the centre of origin for the extant lineages, a key issue in their evolutionary history2,3. Integrated genomic and ecological analyses revealed the reticulate evolution of baobabs, which eventually led to the species diversity seen today. Past population dynamics of Malagasy baobabs may have been influenced by both interspecific competition and the geological history of the island, especially changes in local sea levels. We propose that further attention should be paid to the conservation status of Malagasy baobabs, especially of Adansonia suarezensis and Adansonia grandidieri, and that intensive monitoring of populations of Adansonia za is required, given its propensity for negatively impacting the critically endangered Adansonia perrieri.

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Monday, June 24, 2024