Like Avocados? Thank This Giant Extinct Sloth

Giant ground sloths called lestodons once roamed the grassy plains of South America. They've been extinct for thousands of years, but they thrived for millions. The 15-foot-long, 3-ton animals could eat almost anything a tree can grow, including whole avocados, pits and all.  

Giant sloths, along with megafauna like gomphotheres and glyptodons, feasted on whole avocados and spread their seeds over South America. These enormous creatures’ digestive systems could process large seeds, and avocados benefited. When pooped out, far from their parent trees, the seeds could sprout and grow without competition for water and sunlight. It was a good deal all around, and it likely resulted in avocados as we know them: fatty and large-pitted, all the better to attract huge sloths.

While many other fruit plants died out due to changes in conditions, avocados were everywhere, and survived in pockets of perfect climate. Read more about the megafauna that gave us guacamole at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Kamraman)


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