Plant domestication more rapid under optimizing behavior

Abstract : We assume that early Neolithic cultivators had an optimizing behavior aiming yield maximization and labor efficiency. Then we conduct a hypothetical optimization exercise by examining which consequences such behavior would have if applied to the cultivation of Near-Eastern wild cereals, especially on their rate of domestication measured by the frequency of non-shattering seeds. Two stages of the cultivation process are analyzed, the harvest and the processing. The harvest stage requires two strategies, one about the state of ripeness at the harvest and the other about the harvesting method. We demonstrate that under an optimizing behavior most mature seeds are harvested-by combining two technologies, ground collection and sickling-and thus this stage leads to no selective pressure. On the contrary, the processing stage, from threshing to storage, leads to positive selection when the products of the two harvests are processed separately, a strategy resulting from labor efficiency and risk minimization. Therefore, and from a theoretical point of view, an optimizing behavior tends to support a rapid pathway toward plant domestication, even though the latter is an unconscious outcome of human behavior.
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Serge Svizzero. Plant domestication more rapid under optimizing behavior. Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer Verlag, 2018, 20 (3), pp.287-308. ⟨10.1007/s10818-018-9272-4⟩. ⟨hal-02145462⟩

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