Durian is probably the smelliest fruit in the world, letting out a distinctive pungent smell which would make anyone gag. However, nobody was aware of what gave this fruit its unique aroma, so a team of researchers from Singapore decided to take a look at its genome and find out.
What is durian?
Durian is well-known throughout Southeast Asia as the king of fruits, mostly because of its intimidating appearance and smell. However, the origin of this pungent smell was unknown, so researchers decided to map the genome of the fruit, and find the gene that controlled it. A group of genes, volatile sulfur compounds, became activated with the ripening of the fruit, and they were found responsible for triggering the unpleasant smell.
The fruit baffles everyone with a sulfuric smell, resembling rotten onion and decaying ingredients. The aroma is persistent, mostly because the fruit contains more volatile sulfur compounds than usual. Other species usually benefit from two gene copies at most, but the durian has four, leading to the striking odor.
The smell helps with the spreading of the fruit
However, this smell might be an advantage for the durian in the wild. Although we find it repugnant, many animals might be appealed by it. If they eat the fruit, then they can easily spread its seeds everywhere, thus contributing to the distribution of the species.
The mapping of the durian genome also revealed some other information on the species. First of all, the fruit has an impressive number of genes, namely 46,000. Also, with the help of these genes, they saw how it evolved, and discovered it was related to the cacao tree. All the other discoveries have been published in the journal Nature Genetics.
Despite the striking smell, many people actually enjoy eating the fruit but, for the uninitiated, the taste might be hard to cope with. However, not all durian species are edible, and some of them are even endangered. Even so, the fruit is often imported, significantly contributing to the economy.
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