Teosinte Inflorescence Phytolith Assemblages Mirror Zea Taxonomy

TitleTeosinte Inflorescence Phytolith Assemblages Mirror Zea Taxonomy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsHart, JP, Matson, RG, Thompson, RG, Blake, M
JournalPLoS ONE
Keywordsmaize, phytoliths, taxonomy, teosinte, Zea mays ssp. mays, Zea mays ssp. parviglumis

Molecular DNA analyses of the New World grass (Poaceae) genus Zea, comprising five species, has resolved taxonomic issues including the most likely teosinte progenitor (Zea mays ssp. parviglumis) of maize (Zea mays ssp. mays). However, archaeologically, little is known about the use of teosinte by humans both prior to and after the domestication of maize. One potential line of evidence to explore these relationships is opaline phytoliths produced in teosinte fruit cases. Here we use multidimensional scaling and multiple discriminant analyses to determine if rondel phytolith assemblages from teosinte fruitcases reflect teosinte taxonomy. Our results indicate that rondel phytolith assemblages from the various taxa, including subspecies, can be statistically discriminated. This indicates that it will be possible to investigate the archaeological histories of teosinte use pending the recovery of appropriate samples.