Did You Know Flamingos and Carrots Share a Secret?

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Flamingos are pink because they extract naturally occurring substances called carotenoids from their diet [1]. Carotenoids are also what gives carrots their orange colour and provide a good source of vitamin A.

Sequencing of the carrot genome allowed scientists to travel back in time and explain how carrots evolved from their wild type [2]. The diversity of colour and size in today’s carrots originates from a wild ancestor that was white, thin and woody-looking [3]. More than a thousand years ago farmers selected carrots with a naturally occurring mutation that turned them yellow. Plant breeders have since then selectively bred mutants which concentrated carotenoids in roots deepening their orange colour. They also selected for improved texture, flavour, shape, and pest & disease resistance.

Today, scientists can more efficiently improve varieties by introducing targeted and well-understood mutations to help mitigate climate change [4].

[1] Why are flamingos pink? (New Scientist)
[2] Carrot genome assembly provides new insights into carotenoid accumulation (Nature Genetics)
[3] A Short History of Carrots (The Seed Collection)
[4] Plant Breeding Innovation (Euroseeds)