Chapter

Mesoamerican Domestication and Diffusion

Alejandro Casas and Giuseppe Barbera

in Cacti

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780520231573
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520927889 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520231573.003.0009
Mesoamerican Domestication and Diffusion

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Mesoamerica is one of the most important centers of domestication of plants in the world. Several species of Opuntia, as well as columnar and barrel cacti, were among the most important plant resources domesticated during prehistoric Mesoamerica. Today, dozens of Opuntia and columnar cacti are still utilized by indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica, indicating that these species are in advanced stages of domestication. This chapter examines cultural and biological aspects of the use and management of cacti among peoples of Mexican Mesoamerica and analyzes how domestication is occurring in some species. It compares the morphology between wild and manipulated populations of Opuntia and Stenocereus species to illustrate patterns of artificial selection and evolutionary trends resulting from domestication under different forms of management. The chapter also explores the diffusion of cacti, especially platyopuntias, into other regions of the world to examine trends in domestication of these species outside of Mesoamerica.

Keywords: Mesoamerica; Opuntia; Stenocereus; domestication; diffusion; platyopuntias

Chapter.  12942 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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