Annette Aiello

STRI Profile Page:

Potential co-supervisors
Dolores Piperno

My research concerns the antiquity and character of prehistoric human adaptations in lowland tropical regions of the Americas. A major focus is the investigation of agricultural origins and dispersals, which occurred in the Neotropics and elsewhere in the world between 11,000 and 9000 years ago. Specifically, my research investigates the role of developmental plasticity, gene expression, and external environmental influences in the domestication of maize. The wild ancestor of maize, Zea mays ssp. parviglumis (commonly called Balsas teosinte and native to tropical southwestern Mexico) is being grown in environmental growing chambers at the STRI Gamboa field station under the reduced levels of temperature and atmospheric CO2 that characterized the end of the last ice age, shortly before people started its cultivation. Our experiments explore whether gene expression and other changes leading to phenotypic variability could have been environmentally-induced, leading to heritable, maize-type phenotypic traits in wild maize.

Suggested Reading
  • Piperno, D.R. (2011) The Origins of Plant Cultivation and Domestication in the New World Tropics: Patterns, Process, and New Developments. In The Beginnings of Agriculture: New Data, New Idea, edited by D. Price and O. Bar-Yosef. Special Issue of Current Anthropology. Volume 52, No. S4, 453-70.

  • Gremillion, K. and D. R. Piperno (2009). Human behavioral ecology, phenotypic (developmental) plasticity, and agricultural origins. Insights from the emerging evolutionary synthesis. Current Anthropology 50:615-519.

  • Piperno, D.R., Moreno, J.E., Iriarte, J.E., Holst, I., Lachniet, M., Ranere, A.J. and Castanzo, R. (2007) Late Pleistocene and Holocene environmental history of the Iguala Valley, Central Balsas watershed of Mexico.  PNAS 104:11874-11881.