Wild Squash (Cucurbita sp.) was Abundant during the Pleistocene

“Wild squash evolved bitter poisons known as cucurbitains in their flesh that discouraged seed consumption by rodents. However, large mammals have fewer bitter taste receptors and can consume large quantities of cucurbitains without ill effect. Most squash seeds could survive passage through the gut tract of a megaherbivore and were spread throughout the environment in fertile piles of dung.” Very interesting.

GeorgiaBeforePeople

A new study suggests wild squash and megafauna had a long mutually beneficial relationship during the Pleistocene.  Wild squash evolved bitter poisons known as cucurbitains in their flesh that discouraged seed consumption by rodents.  However, large mammals have fewer bitter taste receptors and can consume large quantities of cucurbitains without ill effect.  Most squash seeds could survive passage through the gut tract of a megaherbivore and were spread throughout the environment in fertile piles of dung.  The squash plants thrived in open sunny environments created by megafauna foraging and trampling.  Mammoths, mastodons, and giant ground sloths killed trees by uprooting them or by stripping off the bark.  This opened woodland canopies where squash plants were exposed to direct sunlight.  Trampling and wallowing also killed grass, resulting in bare soil environments where squash plants could germinate with less competition.  In exchange for providing food, wild squash enjoyed a wide and continuous geographic…

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About George Crawford

archaeologist, archer, primitive technologist, and wannabee musician ... mostly
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