APR 01, 2016 10:44 AM PDT

Avocado

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Did you know the tasty, creamy avocado delight we love in sushi, tacos, and salads is actually a member of the berry family? More interestingly, the word avocado derives from the Nahuatl Aztec word "ahuacatl," which translates to "testicles." Fun facts aside, health gurus have touted the benefits of this fruit for years, citing its healthy fats and many good-for-you vitamins and nutrients.

But the avocado that we know and love today may have gone extinct with the animals that ate them thousands of years ago. During the Pleistocene epoch, giant sloths and armadillos (megafauna) particularly favored eating the avocado fruits. This allowed the dispersion of the fruit seed and also supplied the seedling with plenty of hardy fertilizer for which to grow. When the megafauna suffered a mass extinction around 10-13,000 years ago, the avocado trees might have suffered a similar fate, if it hadn't been for human cultivation.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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