Pretty much everyone who has completed high school understands the basics about the role of animals in how our food chain was created. But we never expected to learn that one important part of that chain in getting avocados into guacamole and onto toast was giant ancient sloths.
The American Museum of Natural History recently shared a few facts about the Lestodon, and it's kind of hilariously cool.
The museum posted an image of the sloth's skeleton on Twitter, and explained, "Next time you eat guacamole, thank a giant ground sloth: the Lestodon! These 15-ft animals ate avocado whole, traveled, and then pooped, depositing the pits in new places. Most mammals couldn't handle large seeds, so it was up to megafauna to disperse (and fertilize!) avocados."
Next time you eat guacamole, thank a giant ground sloth: the Lestodon! These 15-ft animals ate avocado whole, traveled, and then pooped, depositing the pits in new places. Most mammals couldn't handle large seeds, so it was up to megafauna to disperse (and fertilize!) avocados. pic.twitter.com/uBpAqQqgRg— American Museum of Natural History (@AMNH) December 29, 2017
Due to the giant sloth's huge size (sadly, these amazing creatures are extinct), one could actually eat the entire pit and avocado whole. As they traveled South and North America, they spread the seeds via their giant poops, which also served as fertilizer.
Before you get totally grossed out, it's important to remember this is how almost all plants dispersed and fertilized.
The Seed Site offers several good examples: In North Africa, elephants spread the seeds miles away from the tree they grew on, and in Britain, foxes spread raspberries, blackbirds eat strawberries, and even South African ants get in on this buy carrying seeds to their nests, and then eat the outer layer, leaving the seeds to grow.
Seeds aren't just dispersed by animal poop, of course. Squirrels are famous tree planters, as they don't usually retrieve all the nuts they bury, and of course humans move seeds around – either intentionally through farming, or from tossing orange seeds into a bush after eating outside.
Of course, due to recent food science innovations, worrying about pits (the fruit's seed) is no longer an issue. Cocktail avocados, sans pits, are grown in Spain and come from an unpollinated avocado blossom. They look a bit more like cucumbers, but still have the smooth and creamy taste that is crucial for peak avocado enjoyment.