Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

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Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:275
Specimens with Sequences:277
Specimens with Barcodes:266
Species With Barcodes:23
Public Records:271
Public Species:23
Public BINs:0
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Aegilops is a genus of flowering plants in the grass family, Poaceae. They are known generally as goatgrasses.[1] The native distribution of the genus extends from the western Mediterranean to Central Asia, and some species are known elsewhere as introduced weeds.[2]


These are annual plants, sometimes from rhizomes. The taller species reach about 80 centimeters in maximum height. The flat leaves are linear to narrowly lance-shaped, and are up to 15 centimeters long and one wide. The inflorescence is a spike with 2 to 12 solitary spikelets each up to 1.2 centimeters long. Some spikelets have one or three awns, and some have none.[2][3][4][5]


Genus Aegilops has played an important role in the taxonomy of wheat. The familiar common wheat (Triticum aestivum) arose when cultivated emmer wheat hybridized with Aegilops tauschii about 8,000 years ago.[6][7] Aegilops and Triticum are genetically similar, as evidenced by their ability to hybridize, and by the presence of Aegilops in the evolutionary heritage of many Triticum taxa.[4] Aegilops is sometimes treated within Triticum. They are maintained as separate genera by most authorities because of their ecological characteristics,[4] and because when united they do not form a monophyletic group.[7]


Some Aegilops are known as weeds. A. cylindrica, which is commonly known as jointed goatgrass, infests wheat fields, where it outcompetes wheat plants, reducing yields. Its seeds mix with wheat grains at harvest, lowering the quality of the crop. It can also harbor pests such as the Russian wheat aphid (Diuraphis noxia) and pathogenic fungi. Other Aegilops are weeds of rangeland and wildland habitat.[8]

Prehistoric use as a wild food source[edit]

During the Mesolithic era, nomadic peoples found goatgrasses (Aegilops) growing wild, along with wild wheats and barleys, and harvested them using bone sickles inset with sharp flakes of flint. The harvested plants were left to dry for a few days, then the edible grains were separated out from the rest of the plant material by beating the plants with a wooden flail, or by rolling them against a hard surface. The seeds were then carefully singed in the embers of a fire to burn away the remaining non-edible plant material. Some grains were accidentally burnt, and since the burnt grains do not biodegrade some have been found by modern archeologists. [9]


The genus name Aegilops comes from the Greek aegilos, which could mean "a goat", "goatlike", "a herb liked by goats", or perhaps "a grass similar to that liked by goats".[2] "Aegilops" is notable for being the longest word now in use in the English language that has letters in alphabetical order.[10]


There are about 21 to 23 species in the genus.[2][3][4]

Species include:[1][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Aegilops. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
  2. ^ a b c d Watson, L. and M. J. Dallwitz. 1992 onwards. Aegilops. The Grass Genera of the World. Version: 18 December 2012.
  3. ^ a b Aegilops. The Jepson eFlora 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d Aegilops. Triticeae Genus Fact Sheets. Intermountain Herbarium. Utah State University.
  5. ^ Aegilops. GrassBase. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Version 16 November 2012.
  6. ^ Jia, J., et al. (2013). Aegilops tauschii draft genome sequence reveals a gene repertoire for wheat adaptation. Nature 496, 91–95.
  7. ^ a b Petersen, G., et al. (2006). Phylogenetic relationships of Triticum and Aegilops and evidence for the origin of the A, B, and D genomes of common wheat (Triticum aestivum). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 39(1), 70-82.
  8. ^ Aegilops. Encycloweedia Data Sheets. California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).
  9. ^ Thomson, Peter (2010). Seeds, sex, and civilization: How the hidden life of plants has shaped our world. Thames and Hudson. 12,13.
  10. ^ Longest English word with letters arranged in alphabetical order. Guinness World Records.
  11. ^ Aegilops. The Plant List.
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