Landraces of snake melon, an ancient Middle Eastern crop, reveal extensive morphological and DNA diversity for potential genetic improvement

Samer Omari, Yuri Kamenir, Jennifer I.C. Benichou, Sarah Pariente, Hanan Sela, Rafael Perl-Treves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Snake melon (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus, "Faqqous") is a traditional and ancient vegetable in the Mediterranean area. A collection of landraces from 42 grower fields in Israel and Palestinian territories was grown and characterized in a "Common Garden" rain-fed experiment, at the morphological-horticultural and molecular level using seq-DArT markers. Results: The different landraces ("populations") showed extensive variation in morphology and quantitative traits such as yield and femaleness, and clustered into four horticultural varieties. Yield was assessed by five harvests along the season, with middle harvests producing the highest yields. Yield correlated with early vigor, and with femaleness, but not with late vigor. At the molecular level, 2784 SNP were produced and>90% were mapped to the melon genome. Populations were very polymorphic (46-72% of the markers biallelic in a 4 individuals sample), and observed heterozygosity was higher than the expected, suggesting gene flow among populations and extensive cross pollination among individuals in the field. Genetic distances between landraces were significantly correlated with the geographical distance between collecting sites, and with long term March precipitation average, variation in yield correlated with April temperature maxima. Conclusions: The extensive variation suggests that selection of local snake melon could result in yield improvement. Correlations between traits and climatic variables could suggest local adaptation of landraces to the diverse environment in which they evolved. This study stresses the importance of preserving this germplasm, and its potential for breeding better snake melons as an heirloom crop in our region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34
JournalBMC Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 23 May 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).


  • Cucumis melo
  • Genetic diversity
  • Germplasm
  • Landraces
  • Population structure
  • Snake melon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics


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