Genetic Analysis Shows Baobabs Originate in Madagascar – Knowledge

They look as if nature copied them from a picture book. Relatively thin, widely branched branches form the crown, which is reminiscent of a root system. This sits on a short trunk that can be up to seven meters thick. The baobab tree, also known as the baobab, is probably the best-known, emblematic tree of tropical Africa. According to an African legend, the devil tore the trees out of the ground and then stuck them back into the ground with the roots upwards. Now scientists have finally deciphered its actual origins. Like a large team of researchers led by Jun-Nan Wan from the Sino-Afria Joint Research Center in Wuhan, China, in the specialist journal Nature reportedall eight baobab species can be traced back to an origin in Madagascar.

Genetic and ecological analyzes have shown that the miraculous trees did not develop on the African mainland, as was previously often assumed. The forerunners of the baobab originated in Madagascar 21 million years ago. Due to its isolated location around 400 kilometers off the east coast of Africa, the fourth largest island in the world also has a very unique flora and fauna with numerous endemic species.

About twelve million years ago, the Sami people moved to mainland Africa

The early baobabs benefited, among other things, from the special pollinators on the island. Among other things, lemurs, fruit-eating bats and other larger animals carried the tree’s seeds. Twelve million years ago, the seeds of two species were carried by ocean currents to the African mainland and Australia. To date, however, six species can only be found on the island. “What we see today in baobabs on Madagascar was strongly influenced by species competition and the geological history on the island, especially changes in sea level,” lead author Jun-Nan Wan is quoted as saying in a press release.

The tree’s migration probably occurred during times when sea levels were lower. At the same time, the researchers suspect that rising sea levels due to climate change could affect the further distribution of the species. The populations are already being affected by the extinction of species such as fruit bats and certain moths. Some researchers have therefore already suggested that the species protection organization IUCN classify the baobab in the highest endangerment category.

In Africa, the baobab tree still plays a major role for animals and people: elephants and people tap into the trunks’ water supply, many species of birds nest in the crown and caves in the trunks, and the fruits and seeds serve as food and are used in folk medicine Use. Bark and fibers are used to make clothing, roofing and mats, ropes and cords, among other things. On the other hand, its wood can hardly be used as a building material; it is too light and rots quickly.

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