Image_1_Bulliform Phytolith Size of Rice and Its Correlation With Hydrothermal Environment: A Preliminary Morphological Study on Species in Southern China.tif
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In the last decade, our understanding of rice domestication has improved by new archaeological findings using advanced analytical techniques such as morphological and morphometric analyses on rice grains, spikelet bases and phytoliths, and ancient DNA analysis on rice remains. Previous studies have considered the size of rice bulliform phytoliths as a proxy for tracking the domestication process. These phytoliths are often abundant and well preserved in sediments, and their shape is under the control of numerous genes, which may shift toward larger sizes by genetic mutation in domestication. Therefore, it has been assumed that the bulliforms of domesticated rice are usually larger than those of wild ones; however, morphometric data supporting this assumption are lacking in the literature, thereby requiring additional evidence to test its veracity. In this study, the vertical and horizonal lengths of bulliform phytoliths were measured in four rice species (domesticated Oryza sativa and wild Oryza rufipogon, Oryza officinalis, and Oryza meyeriana) from different regions of southern China. We found that the bulliform morphometric data of wild and domesticated rice overlapped and that there was no statistically significant difference between them. Therefore, bulliform size could not be used as a diagnostic indicator to distinguish domesticated rice from wild species and is a supporting rather than conclusive proxy for determining the domesticated status of rice in archaeological research. We further found that larger rice bulliform sizes likely occurred at the locations with higher temperature, precipitation, and water levels, indicating hydrothermal environment is an alternative factor influencing the size of rice bulliform phytoliths. For further archaeological use of an increasing size trend of bulliform phytoliths to reveal the process of rice domestication, we present some suggestions for controlling the influence of hydrothermal factors. Even so, the combination of bulliform phytolith size with other established criteria is strongly suggested to provide precise identification of wild and domesticated rice in future research.
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