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Origins of Corn: Teosinte

By Julia Galperin and Dani Gonzalez

Corn is delicious food that is used in many things: corn flour, corn starch, corn tortillas, and more. Corn only came into existence because of human manipulation. Archeological and genetic studies show that corn was cultivated by early inhabitants of Mexico. This corn came from a plant called teosinte. It was so hard for scientists to find the connection between teosinte and corn because they are so different from each other. These two plants differ in the number of stalks, the number of rows of kernels, and how hard/soft the kernel is. The F2 generation of corn is a mix of two F1 generation plants (includes one copy of teosinte mixed with one copy of corn) meaning that ¼ will look like teosinte, ¼ will look like corn, and ½ will look like a mix of the two. Corn has been traced to have a connection with teosinte from the South part of Mexico. As stated before, the fruit cases of teosinte and corn are very different, however, fruit cases are only controlled by one gene. When teosinte and corn were crossbred the teosinte began to have less hard corn (similar to corn), while the corn had a harder case (like teosinte). Another difference I addressed before is the difference in the number of ears which is also controlled by one gene: the branching gene. Both the fruit-case gene and the branching gene are regulatory genes meaning that they control the activity of the other genes. This is why the manipulation of these two genes has such a big appearance on what the plant looks like.


What is teosinte?

Teosinte is known as the mother of corn and it holds lots of significance in Mexican culture.

What is teosinte used for?

Teosinte is used as a crop for cattles in Mexico and also used to be fed to other livestock such as chickens and pigs.

What is the difference between teosinte and corn?

Teosinte is a plant that can hold multiple grains, whereas corn can only hold up to several hundred grains.

How did teosinte become corn?

Well, it was a genetic mutation that caused the hard outer layer to fade out. Ancient plant breeders began domestication teosinte to plant the kernels and create corn!

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