Home Weird News This Ancient Pooping Giant Sloth is Why We Have Avocados Today

This Ancient Pooping Giant Sloth is Why We Have Avocados Today

There is no question that avocados are one of your most beloved foods. There is a never-ending list of reasons why avocados are so popular. This might be because they are one of the most visually appealing fruits in addition to being delicious. There is, however, no doubting the avocado’s standing as a strong competitor in the food world.

The vast majority of the avocados we consume are brought to us from Mexico or Chile. But did you know that if South American giant sloths hadn’t eaten them throughout the Pliocene and Pleistocene eras, we wouldn’t have them today?

The American Museum of Natural History shared this interesting fact on Tumblr recently.

These days, the world is home to just six different kinds of sloths, and they’re all far smaller than they were. The Americas were formerly home to a variety of enormous ground sloths, including the Lestodon, the Eremotherium, and the Megatherium. There are claims that the Megatherium dug tunnels up to 2,000 feet in length, six feet in height, and five feet in width.

The Lestodon had bone plates hidden under its skin.

The Lestodon had bone plates hidden under its skin.
 Image credit: Петр Меньшиков

Lestodon, our avocado-loving pal, is classified as an “armored animal” due to the presence of bone plates just beneath its skin. Its length from snout to tail tip was around 4.6 meters (15 feet), making it another giant. In addition to that, it had a weight of around 2,590 kilos (2.85 short tons or 2.55 long tons)

Scientists believe that early humans developed a taste for avocados about the same time these huge beasts did.

The giant sloth is likely where we get our fondness for avocados.

The giant sloth is likely where we get our fondness for avocados.
Image credit: RobinGoodfellow_(m)

Connie Barlow is the author of The Ghosts of Evolution: Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, and Other Ecological Anachronisms. According to Connie’s interview with the Smithsonian, avocado seeds would perish where they have fallen and would have to compete with the parent tree for light and growth if it weren’t for enormous animals like the ground sloth. For this reason, berries and other fruits with little seeds have a greater chance of fruiting in a new area, since small animals are more likely to be able to eat them whole and spread them around. That’s not a viable choice when discussing avocados.

Given the importance of megafauna in dispersing its seeds, the extinction of these animals might have had a devastating effect on the guacamole’s main component. However, we owe a debt of gratitude to the ancient Aztecs who first cultivated avocados as a crop. They decided to call it “ahuacatl,” which literally translates to “testicle.”

A gigantic ground sloth is now on display at the museum.

Since then, the widespread adoration of avocados by humans has reached an unsustainable level. In reality, there are two factors that make it one of the 7 least sustainable fruits worldwide. To begin, it is a monoculture plant, which is known for reducing the soil and leaving it with few nutrients. Because of this, it is not suited for farming over the long term. Destruction of forest cover is another factor. Avocado trees are being planted all throughout Mexico, which is leading to the destruction of the country’s forests.

The soil might benefit from a rotational agricultural system in which other crops are grown alongside avocados. In such case, we may be able to keep reaping the nutritional and flavor advantages of the avocado for some time to come.

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