Next time you rip into a grapefruit, take a moment to contemplate the fact that your breakfast’s ancestors might very well have originated in southwestern China. A new study published last week by Nature indicates that the citrus genus originated in a few biodiversity hot spots in Southeast Asia, including China’s Yunnan province:
The origin of citrus has generally been considered to be in southeast Asia1, a biodiversity hotspot13 with a climate that has been influenced by both east and south Asian monsoons14 (Supplementary Note 9). Specific regions include the Yunnan province of southwest China15, Myanmar and northeastern India in the Himalayan foothills1. A fossil specimen from the late Miocene epoch of Lincang in Yunnan, Citrus linczangensis16, has traits that are characteristic of current major citrus groups, and provides definite evidence for the existence of a common Citrus ancestor within the Yunnan province approximately 8 million years ago (Ma).
Naturally, this all happened a while ago (during the Miocene), long before there was anything resembling China or humans and when the Himalayas were just a bunch of baby hills. Still, interesting stuff for the food history nerds out there.
Read the report here.