CSI Mango: Former police forensic tech working to catalogue 600 species of mango

Two green mangoesDid you know that there are more than 1,000 named mango species in the world? The beautiful Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Florida is home to around 600 species of mango.

Dr Michael Hass, a former DNA testing manager with the Miami-Dade Police Department’s crime lab, now volunteers at the Garden in a project to catalogue the species into a DNA databank. Having a databank will not only allow better identification of mangoes that are brought into the Garden, but could help scientists to make new varieties. He’s working with interns and students, such as Florida International University PhD candidate Emily Warschefsky who is studying the phylogenetics and domestication of mangoes and their wild relatives (Mangifera species). She’s already won an award for her work. By the way, phylogenetics is about working out the evolutionary history of living things, in this case the family tree of the mango.

Even though mangoes are grown worldwide, in each country just a few species dominate the commercial crops. This nursery, also in Florida, includes pictures of the varieties it grows. None of the names at that nursery are familiar to be here in Australia. Maybe they are the same to the ones we eat in Australia, but they just have different commercial names? That’s the kind of question that a DNA Databank could help to answer one day.

Mangoes must be a very interesting fruit to study because they are significant to many cultures around the world. Did you now that the Indian paisley pattern is based on the shape of a mango, and that the mango is the national fruit of India, Pakistan and the Philippines?

Thanks to this article from West Hawaii Today for letting us know about Hass and Warschefsky‘s cool work.




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