Bugs Bunny hasn’t aged a day since his cartoon debut in 1940, and he rarely wears glasses. He can play all nine positions on a baseball field – at once. He also consistently outwits gangstershuntersand water fowl.

That could be due to all the carrots he consumes. Carrots contain high quantities of carotenoids – plant pigments that have been shown to provide health benefits, including reduced risk of diseases such as eye disease. The orange carrot is the richest source of vitamin A in the American diet.

Maybe the wily and youthful-looking rabbit has intuited for decades what can now be found in the scientific literature, as NC State researchers worked with colleagues from around the globe to sequence the carrot genome in order to learn more about the plant’s evolution and how it accumulates its high levels of carotenoids.

Massimo Iorizzo, a researcher with NC State’s Plants for Human Health Institute in Kannapolis and first author of a paper describing the carrot genome sequence, published in Nature Genetics, says the findings could support crop improvement efforts for sustained agricultural production and improved human health benefits.

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