Between helpings of avocado toast and guacamole, have you ever stopped to think about how the avocado actually came to be? Not only does this beautiful, green fruit come with some great health benefits — they’re jam-packed with fats that are good for you, fibre and nutrients — but it’s also what the world uses to thicken smoothies and add depth to many dishes. And none of it would’ve been possible today without the help of ancient sloths.
According to the American Museum of Natural History, the sloth’s ancestor, the Lestodon, played a crucial part in avocado tree growth. These ancient animals would swallow avocados whole, and would then, well, poop entire seeds out since they couldn’t be digested.
“Next time you eat guacamole, thank a giant ground sloth—like the Lestodon! These 15-foot animals ate avocados whole, traveled, and then pooped, depositing the pits in new places. Most mammals couldn’t handle large seeds, so it was up to the giant ground sloths and other megafauna to disperse (and fertilize!) avocados,” the museum wrote. “Giant ground sloths went extinct about 13,000 years ago, but the avocado lives on.”
Yep, the ancient sloth was basically an avocado tree-planting machine. Before you start cringing, it’s important to remember that poop is a natural fertilizer, and that you aren’t eating poop now just because that’s what it first grew in.
It’s also worth noting that avocado seeds need to be taken away from the trees they fall from in order to get enough sunlight to grow properly. And the Lestodon did it all — moved the seeds to different spots, fertilized them and enriched our lives with avocados.
Just a fun fact for you to think about the next time you’re making some guac or lost in thought on the toilet.