Scientists decode smelly durian’s DNA

  • Once described by a detractor as smelling of “turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock”, southeast Asia’s durian fruit leaves no-one unmoved – you either adore or abhor it.
  • Popular in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, the spiny, stinky delicacy is banned from public transport and many hotels.
  • Yet, for a food so controversial, very little was known about the durian’s genetic makeup, until now.
  • Scientists from Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia published the DNA blueprint of the common durian, Durio zibethinus – laying bare the genes responsible for its unique traits.
  • Such data “is vital to better understanding of durian biodiversity,” the team wrote in the journal Nature Genetics.
  • There are 30 known species in the Durio family, with D. zibethinus the most widely consumed.
  • The thorn-covered fruit, yellow-green in colour, can grow to the size of a rugby ball.
  • Genomic data could be useful for “rapid quality control”, they said, verifying the authenticity of fruit sold as desirable cultivars which may fetch high prices among aficionados.
  • Further studies will help to elucidate the ecological roles of these tropical plants. 


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