Why Avocados Shouldn’t Exist
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Why Avocados Shouldn’t Exist

Whether it’s sliced on top of a salad, tucked
in a California sushi roll, or mashed as guacamole in a burrito, people seem to love avocados. In fact, people in the United States munched
through four billion of them in 2014 alone. They taste great, they’re good for you — but
one of the most amazing things about avocados is that … they still exist. See, they had a special relationship with
huge beasts that lumbered around Central America tens of thousands of years ago. And when these animals went extinct, avocados
could easily have gone down with them. But, luckily for us, they were saved by some
prehistoric farmers. The word ‘avocado’ comes from the Aztecs.
Specifically, the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, which means … testicle. I mean, you can kind of see where they got
the name — it probably has something to do with the, uh, you know the shape and texture
of avocados, the way they hang from trees. Anyway, before they became popular in the
rest of the world, they were cultivated in Mesoamerica for thousands of years. Avocados are a fruit – basically, swollen
plant ovaries. But, nutritionally, they’re very different
from other fruits you’d find at the supermarket. Fruits like apples and oranges are composed
mostly of water and sugar. And in general, fruit is probably better for
you than, say, a bag of sweets or a sugary drink because it contains fiber, which slows
down sugar absorption and makes you feel fuller, faster. By comparison, avocados have much less sugar
but more protein and fat. That gives them that smooth, creamy texture, but also puts
them on the calorific side – for a fruit, anyway. They also contain high levels of potassium
and folate nutrients, as well as vitamins C, E and K. And technically, avocados are berries, like
grapes and blueberries. Rather than holding lots of little seeds,
the avocado goes all-in on one big seed – that massive ball at the core of each fruit. And avocadoes, with their huge seeds, evolved
alongside equally huge guts. Tens of thousands of years ago, during the
Pleistocene Epoch, a menagerie of megafauna — or, giant animals — roamed the Americas. While woolly mammoths chilled out in the North,
ground sloths weighing three tons and armadillos the size of cars lived in the warm equatorial
forests. And these giant sloths and armadillos ate
a lot of avocados. Their digestive systems would break down the
tough skin and absorb the high-energy pulp. Then, the indigestible seed, which contains
bitter toxins that kept the animals from chewing it up, passed right out the other end. The animals got a tasty meal, and the avocado
trees got to scatter their offspring throughout Mesoamerican forests. Plus, the seeds got some nice, warm fertilizer
to give them a nutritious boost. And with these megafauna around to eat the
fruit, avocado trees could keep growing berries with increasingly massive seeds. The bigger the seed, the more nutrients could
be stored inside as a “starter kit” for the baby tree. This is especially useful in dense, tropical
forests where canopies of older trees block out much of the light from the saplings below. So instead of depending entirely on sunlight
for energy, the avocado seedlings could supplement photosynthesis with the nutrients in their
seed to survive. This happy evolutionary match didn’t last,
though. Eventually, the megafauna suffered a mass extinction around ten to thirteen thousand
years ago. We don’t know exactly why, but scientists
think the warming climate at the end of the last Ice Age was partly responsible. Though it was also suspiciously close to the
time humans began spreading across the Americas — no doubt enjoying lots of giant-mammal
meat along the way! This meant avocados were in trouble. Without their large-gutted evolutionary partners,
the trees stopped thriving — their fruit fell to the ground, and the seeds mostly just
became food for mold. But more hungry creatures were nearby! The new human arrivals loved the avocado’s
flesh as much as the ground sloths did. They also had the tools to eat them, and the brains
to figure out how to grow them. Avocados were all set for domestication. The avocados we eat today are probably a little
different from the ones that grew tens of thousands of years ago — for example, thanks
to artificial selection, they probably have more pulp than their ancestors. But they’ve kept their huge seeds, ready
and waiting for the guts of long-dead beasts. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow,
brought to you by our patrons on Patreon. If you want to help support this show, just
go to patreon.com/scishow. And don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe!

100 thoughts on “Why Avocados Shouldn’t Exist

  1. SciShow: I personally don't like avocado, but found the topic of this video interesting: like what would happen to domesticated corn without humans planting them.

  2. Welcome back to another episode of I’m not sure why this is on my recommended but I’m not complaining 😂

  3. Wow I thought this was gonna be those stupid and racist videos with no sense.
    But actually was a pretty interesting theme, nice job guys.

  4. So this coloured hair scientist or biologists is making us hate avocados?and only him no other biologists or scientists

  5. So the female part of the plant was named after testicles. And really liked learning about this can't wait to tell anyone who eats an advocado with me.

  6. Berries have multiple seeds contained by a fleshy surrounding. Bananas are berries, grapes are berries.

    Peaches, Strwberrys, Blackberrys, and avacados with only one seed are not.

  7. The extinction of avocados could've saved humanity by deleting the entire millenial generation because there wouldn't be any avocado toast around to feed them.

  8. I am a 3rd generation Californian, and I don't like avocados. That is not the only thing that is strange about me.

  9. Great info. Thanks! How about an update with the info on how the Hass avocado came out of nowhere and has an “according to legend” backstory when it showed up in California. It’s super weird and kinda cool.

  10. I had a ad that was over 24 minutes long for this almost 4 minute long video… skippable yes but YouTube is getting excessive with ads…

  11. Not sure I understand how they're interpreting health here. Avocados are quite unhealthy, and eating several on a regular basis is going to gain you a lot of weight. Fruits being "probably better" than sugary foods is a crazy understatement, however. You can eat a ridiculous amount of strawberry, blueberry, whatever, just stuff yourself all day every day with fruit and it's like, almost 0 calories. Fruit is indeed sugar water, but have very little sugar despite tasting just as sweet as sugary foods.

  12. I don't get why Avocados are so popular. They taste like wallpaper paste and have the texture of cold chunky mashed potatoes and the appearance of green diarrhea.

  13. Sorry saying somthing that clearly does exist shouldn't exist sounds ridiculous it's a science show at least give it scientifically accurate title. " avocados are crazy how do they exist" or somthing. Ps I LOVE SCISHOW

  14. Hey! Anyone know about the evolutionary history of the jackfruit? It's infructences are way larger and heavier than the avocado. Why is so big? Which animals does eat it?

  15. According to the Animal Poison Control Center, avocados are toxic to a number of animals, including horses, rabbits, fish and mice. The toxic effects are due to the compound persin, an oil-soluble toxin found in specialized cells (idioblasts) within the avocado fruit, as well as in its skin.

  16. Nothing to do with the video, but when you speak and you turn your head to the left mostly, not dead on. Strange how that happens.

  17. : "they taste good" What?? i want to eat it but i don t know how to make it and actually have a taste

  18. Avocados are NOT berries (which have multiple seeds). Technically, they're a 'drupe' like plums, peaches, cherries. Single seed. (I know it's a nerdy thing….)

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