So the Chinese invented rice and
Asian rice, Oryza sativa, is one of world's oldest crop species
. It is also a very diverse crop, with tens of thousands of varieties known throughout the world. Two major subspecies of rice -- japonica and indica -- represent most of the world's varieties. Sushi rice, for example, is a type of japonica, while most of the long-grain rice in risottos are indica. Because rice is so diverse, its origins have been the subject of scientific debate. One theory -- a single-origin model -- suggests that indica and japonica were domesticated once from the wild rice O. rufipogon
In their PNAS
study, the investigators also used a "molecular clock" of rice genes to see when rice evolved. Depending on how the researchers calibrated their clock, they pinpointed the origin of rice at possibly 8,200 years ago, while japonica and indica split apart from each other about 3,900 years ago. The study's authors pointed out that these molecular dates were consistent with archaeological studies. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence in the last decade for rice domestication in the Yangtze Valley beginning approximately 8,000 to 9,000 years ago while domestication of rice in the India's Ganges region was around about 4,000 years ago.
"As rice was brought in from China to India by traders and migrant farmers, it likely hybridized extensively with local wild rice," explained NYU biologist Michael Purugganan, one of the study's co-authors. "So domesticated rice that we may have once thought originated in India actually has its beginnings in China."