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Fragaria: A genus with deep historical roots and ripe for evolutionary and ecological insights

Liston, Aaron, Cronn, Richard, Ashman, Tia-Lynn
American journal of botany 2014 v.101 no.10 pp. 1686-1699
Fragaria, ancestry, biodiversity, botanists, dioecy, diploidy, ethnobotany, genomics, gynodioecy, hermaphroditism, interspecific hybridization, natural history, phylogeny, polyploidy, roots, sex chromosomes, strawberries, Europe
The cultivated strawberry, Fragaria ×ananassa, is one of the youngest domesticated plants. Its 18th century origin via hybridization in Europe between the North American F. virginiana and the South American F. chiloensis was documented by the botanist Antoine Nicolas Duchesne. His 1766 “Natural History of Strawberries” is an extraordinary work that integrates fundamental discoveries on the biology, ecology, and phylogeny of Fragaria with applied information on cultivation and ethnobotanical uses, serving as an inspiration for current research in the genus. Fragaria species exhibit the full range of sexual systems in the gynodioecy pathway from hermaphroditism to dioecy (and back again), as well as variation in self-compatibility, and evidence of sex chromosomes with female heterogamety. The genus is also characterized by interspecific hybridization and polyploidy, with a natural range of ploidy levels from diploids to decaploids. This biological diversity, combined with the availability of genomic resources and the ease of growing and experimenting with the plants, makes Fragaria a very attractive system for ecological and evolutionary genomics. The goal of this review is to introduce Fragaria as a model genus and to provide a roadmap for future integrative research. These research directions will deepen our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary context that shaped the ancestors of the cultivated strawberry, not only providing information that can be applied to efforts to shape the future of this important fruit crop but also our understanding of key transitions in plant evolution.