Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn

Discover where corn came from

Discover where corn came from with evolutionary biologist Dr. Neil Losin as he embarks on a historical quest to understand the origin of maize(corn).

While the wild varieties of common crops, such as apples and wheat, looked much like the cultivated species, there are no wild plants that closely resemble maize.

As the documentary unfolds, we learn how geneticists and archaeologists have come together to unravel the mysteries of how and where maize was domesticated nearly 9,000 years ago.

History shows how humans repeatedly transformed wild plants into useful crops by artificially selecting and propagating individuals with the most desirable traits or characteristics—such as size, color, or sweetness—over generations.

Maize evolution shows good evidence of human interaction. The evidence is shown through early maize domestication, which comes from many disciplines; including that of evolutionary biology, genetics, and archaeology. These broad Analyses of shared characteristics among different species, including extinct ones, enables scientists to determine evolutionary relationships.

In general, the more closely related two groups of organisms are, the more similar their DNA sequences will be. Scientists can estimate how long ago two populations of organisms diverged by comparing their genomes.

When the number of genes is relatively small, mathematical models based on Mendelian genetics can help scientists estimate how many genes are involved in the differences in traits between species.

Regulatory genes code for proteins, such as transcription factors, that in turn control the expression of several—even hundreds—of other genes. As a result, changes in just a few regulatory genes can have a dramatic effect on traits.

Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn
  • Info
  • Release date2015
  • Full runtime
  • Director(s)Nathan Dappen, Neil Losin
  • Production companyHHMI