Complex origins of breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis, Moraceae): Implications for human migrations in Oceania

Nyree J C Zerega*, Diane Ragone, Timothy J. Motley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

116 Scopus citations


Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis, Moraceae), a traditional starch crop in Oceania, has enjoyed legendary status ever since its role in the infamous mutiny aboard the H.M.S. Bounty in 1789, yet its origins remain unclear. Breadfruit's closest relatives are A. camansi and A. mariannensis. DNA fingerprinting data (AFLP, amplified fragment length polymorphisms) from over 200 breadfruit cultivars, 30 A. camansi, and 24 A. mariannensis individuals were used to investigate the relationships among these species. Multivariate analyses and the identification of species-specific AFLP markers indicate at least two origins of breadfruit. Most Melanesian and Polynesian cultivars appear to have arisen over generations of vegetative propagation and selection from A. camansi. In contrast, most Micronesian breadfruit cultivars appear to be the result of hybridization between A. camansi-derived breadfruit and A. mariannensis. Because breadfruit depends on humans for dispersal, the data were compared to theories on the human colonization of Oceania. The results agree with the well-supported theory that humans settled Polynesia via Melanesia. Additionally, a long-distance migration from eastern Melanesia into Micronesia is supported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)760-766
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2004


  • Amplified fragment length polymorphisms
  • Artocarpus altilis
  • Artocarpus camansi
  • Artocarpus mariannensis
  • Breadfruit
  • Human migration
  • Oceania
  • Origin of domesticated plants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science

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