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"Nothing is known about date palms in terms of their genetic diversity and what the varieties look like genetically," Michael Purugganan, principal investigator of NYU Abu Dhabi's Center for Genomics and Systems Biology (CGSB), told The National. "So we thought this was a great opportunity to understand a completely different species that's also very important to a wide group of people." Also dean of science and Dorothy Schiff Professor of Genomics at NYU New York's Faculty of Arts and Science, Purugganan and his team have begun sequencing the DNA of 100 varieties of date palms "in a project they hope will enable them to develop tastier and more disease-resistant fruit."

The 100 Dates! project also aims to uncover valuable information about the origins of date palms. "This origin is usually discovered where the highest genetic diversity is found," explained Jonathan Flowers, a research scientist at the CGSB.

With two genomes now sequenced, the project is under way, and the team — which is developing a collaboration with UAE University's Date Palm Research and Development Program — hopes to sequence the next 30 by early next year.

To read the article in its entirety — and for a more recent article on the 100 Dates! project — click the links below.