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Ancient Cocoa’s Trees

November 18, 2015

The cacao tree has been around for millions of years, and that might help save the chocolate industry.


luisovalles CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia

A modern cacao tree. (Luisovalles, CC BY 3.0, via Wikipedia)


Protecting the future of chocolate. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our chocolate supply may be in danger. The lack of genetic diversity in cultivated cacao trees—which produce chocolate—leaves them vulnerable to pests and climate change. But, in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, botanist James Richardson, at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, reports that there’s new hope, thanks to the discovery that the species is ten million years old.

JAMES RICHARDSON (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh):

During which time it possibly has developed quite a large amount of genetic diversity within the species.


That genetic diversity might give wild relatives of cacao trees the ability to resist some diseases, fight off insect pests, or thrive in different climates. If so, those advantages might be bred into cultivated trees. And that could help protect our chocolate supply, and even create new flavors. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.