A new article in Molecular Biology and Evolution by Clotault et al "Evolutionary History of Pearl Millet (Pennisetum glaucum [L.] R. Br.) and Selection on Flowering Genes since Its Domestication" has some exciting and intriguing results. They have done demographic modelling, using a number of different scenarios of gene flow, based on 20 random genes, and they have also looked for selective sweeps, finding evidence for strong selection on flowering-time related genes. Although they have only modelled single domestication scenarios (which is by no means a done deal in Pearl millet), they have nevertheless taken into explicit account the notion of protracted domestication process (sensu Allaby et al 2008 or Allaby 2010), with gradual fixation of domestication traits, with exponential rather than instantaneous population growth after the bottleneck.
They find a bottleneck strength and reduction of genetic diversity that fall amongst those estimated for other crops. Their estimated time for domestication returned an intriguingly plausible 4800 years ago, just a few centuries before the earliest archaeological evidence for domestication pearl millet in the Tilemsi valley (see Manning et al, blogged previously). The evidence they have found for selection on flowering related genes makes a whole lot of sense, because the dispersal of pearl millet from a Sahelian zone southwards crossed many different ecological zones, for which adjustments in seasonality would indeed have been important.