A new study has confirmed that the origin of melons and cucumbers can be traced back to India. REUTERS

A new study has confirmed that the origin of melons and cucumbers can be traced back to India.

In 2010, it was suggested that cucumber and melon belonging to the family of Cucurbitaceae are indigenous to India. Now, researchers have created a new checklist of the Cucurbitaceae that confirms the origins of these food items.

Cucurbitaceae are an important plant family that includes pumpkins, melon, cucumber, watermelon, bottle gourds, and bitter gourd. Based on molecular data, researchers have found that cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) and melon (Cucumis melo L.) likely originated from the foot hills of the Himalayas.

Researcher Arun Pandey from University of Delhi and Susanne Renner from the University of Munich, Germany, created a new checklist of the Cucurbitaceae so as to update the data about the Cucurbitaceae family.

The list has 400 names and gives details about the location from where the specimens were collected. The list also includes 94 species from 31 genera. Of the 94 species, 10 are endemic to India.

Besides giving details about the location of the samples, the list gives information about the publicly available DNA sequences. DNA sequences of at least 79 percent of the 94 species are available in GenBank - National Institute of Health (NIH) genetic sequence database in the United States, which has a collection of all publicly available DNA sequences.

Trichosanthes is the most species-rich genera with 22 species, which is followed by Cucumis with 11 (all but two wild). The genus of Momordica has eight species. "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. It may also provide vital genetic information to improve the current varieties of pumpkins, cucumbers, and their relatives," Renner said in a statement.

The findings of the study are published in the journal PhytoKeys.

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