Friday, September 11, 2009

Coconut evidence supports Pre-Columbian journeys across the Pacific

Somehow I missed the following article when if first came out despite my subscription to the Coconut Study mailing list!

Baudouin, L & Lebrun, L (2008) Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) DNA studies support the hypothesis of an ancient Austronesian migration from Southeast Asia to America. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 56 (2), 257-262.

Abstract The centre of origin of coconut extends from Southwest Asia to Melanesia. Nevertheless, its pre-Columbian existence on the Pacific coast of America is attested. This raises questions about how, when and from where coconut reached America. Our molecular marker study relates the pre-Columbian coconuts to coconuts from the Philippines rather than to those of any other Pacific region, especially Polynesia. Such an origin rules out the possibility of natural dissemination by the sea currents. Our findings corroborate the interpretation of a complex of artefacts found in the Bahía de Caraquez (Ecuador) as related to South-East Asian cultures. Coconut thus appears to have been brought by Austronesian seafarers from the Philippines to Ecuador about 2,250 years BP. We discuss the implications of molecular evidence for assessing the possible contribution of early trans-pacific travels to and from America to the dissemination of domesticated plants and animals.

Again this appears to be a landmark find that was completely ignored by the mainstream Western press.

The article was published along with a number of relevant studies that came out around the same time on Pre-Columbian chickens in the Americas, along with Pre-Columbian Datura metel and custard apple in South Asia.

The coconut study is based on examination of DNA microsatellite markers and the distribution of varieties that are resistant to the Lethal Yellowing diseases, which are transmitted by insects. For some discussion on the Ecuadorian cultures mentioned in the abstract, see my posts on fish hooks, fish poisons, Solheim's theory on Pre-Columbian contacts, migrations along the Kuroshio Current, and plants across the Pacific.

Paul Kekai Manansala