Today's apples are bigger, less acidic, less bitter, and store better than their wild ancestors, according to new research.
Ten apple phenotypes or traits, were examined by researchers hoping to discover how the popular fruit has evolved.
Sean Myles, an associate professor in agriculture at Canada's Dalhousie University, and his team drew from Canada's Apple Biodiversity Collection, an orchard with more than 1,000 apple varieties, including ancient heirloom types and wild apples from the forests of Kazakhstan.
They found that cultivated apples were 3.6 times heavier, about half as acidic, and far less bitter than the wild species from which they are derived.
Writing in the journal PLoS ONE, the study's authors said: "Using historical records, we found that apple breeding over the past 200 years has resulted in a trend towards apples that have higher soluble solids, are less bitter, and soften less during storage.
"Our results quantify the significant changes in phenotype that have taken place since apple domestication, and provide evidence that apple breeding has led to continued phenotypic divergence of the cultivated apple from its wild progenitor species."
"Our work demonstrates that cultivated and wild apples have diverged phenotypically, and that hundreds of years of apple improvement have shaped the variation in fruit and phenology we observe among cultivated apples today."
"Wild apples offer potentially valuable pools of genetic material that may be helpful for apple improvement."
Apples are one of the most heavily-produced crops in the world and their cultivation dates back at least 7,000 years.