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`Indian origins of melons and cucumbers confirmed`

The humble cucumber and melons are indigenous to India and may have originated from the foothills of the Himalayas, scientists claim.

Berlin: The humble cucumber and melons are indigenous to India and may have originated from the foothills of the Himalayas, scientists claim.

In 2010 study, researchers showed that melons and cucumbers can be traced back to India. Due to the importance of the region for an understanding of Cucurbitaceae evolution and diversity, a new checklist of the Cucurbitaceae of India was produced to update the information on that family.

"The checklist shows Ganges region is the place where wild cucumbers were first cultivated in India," Arun Pandey from the Department of Botany, University of Delhi, told PTI.

Vegetables are essential components of a healthy daily diet, not just in India but around the globe.

The cucumber family, Cucurbitaceae, includes many of our favourite foods: pumpkins, melon, cucumber, watermelon, bottle gourds, and bitter gourd, `Science Daily` reported.

Molecular data have recently shown that both cucumber (Cucumis sativus L) and melon (Cucumis melo L) are indigenous to India and likely to have originated from the foothills of the Himalayas.

Pandey and Susanne Renner from the Department of Systematic Botany and Mycology, University of Munich, Germany decided to produce a checklist of the Cucurbitaceae of India that would bring up-to-date the information available for that family.

The list treats 400 relevant names and provides information on the collecting locations for all type specimens. It includes 94 species (10 of them endemic to India) from 31 genera.

For each species, the checklist provides distributional information, electronic links to images of living or dried plants, and information on publicly available DNA sequences. Of the 94 species, 79 per cent have DNA sequences in GenBank, albeit rarely stemming from Indian material.

The most species-rich genera are Trichosanthes with 22 species, Cucumis with 11 (all but two wild), and the bitter gourd genus, Momordica, with eight. The checklist also includes a phylogenetic reconstruction of the family that shows the DNA-based placement of the 31 Indian genera relative to the World`s remaining Cucurbitaceae.

"Updating and summarising the available information on Indian Cucurbitaceae and linking it to molecular data and images may help to focus phylogenetic and floristic research on poorly known species, and potentially strengthen conservation efforts," Renner, senior author of the work said.

"It may also provide vital genetic information to improve the current varieties of pumpkins, cucumbers, and their relatives," Renner said in a PENSOFT statement.

The study was published in the journal PhytoKeys.


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