Rice Varieties in Archaic East Asia: Reduction of Its Diversity from Past to Present Times

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Abstract

The Asian cultivated rice, Oryza sativa, is one of the most important crops feeding more than a third of global population. In spite of the studies for several decades, the origin and domestication history of rice varietal groups, japonica and indica, have not been fully unveiled. Genetic information of ancient rice remains is essential for direct and exclusive insight into the domestication history of rice. We performed ancient DNA analysis of 950- to 2,800-year-old rice remains excavated from Japan and Korea. We found the presence of both japonica- and indica-type varieties in the Yayoi period and the middle ages of Japan and the middle part of Korea Peninsula 2,000 years ago. It is popularly considered that japonica has been exclusively cultivated in northern part of East Asia including Japan and Korea. Our result disclosed unexpectedly wide diversity of rice varieties in archaic East Asia. The present results from ancient rice DNA reveal an exclusive insight for the domestication history of rice which is not provided as far as contemporary rice.

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