Pumpkins evolved to be eaten by wooly mammoths and giant sloths. Pumpkins would likely be extinct today if ancient humans hadn’t conserved them.

Without us, pumpkins may have gone extinct

People in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving each year with a feast that includes pumpkins. But it turns out that pumpkins—along with the rest of Cucurbita, the plant genus that includes gourds and squash, have us to thank, too. More than 10,000 years ago, the extremely bitter-tasting wild ancestors of Cucurbita plants were thriving across the New World, along with the large mammals such as giant sloths and mammoths that grazed on them. Today those wild plants are rare, whereas the sweet-tasting domesticated species are extremely common—in our gardens, that is. What would have happened to pumpkins, gourds, and squash without human intervention? A genetic analysis of 91 Cucurbita species paints a dark picture. One finding is that the p… Continue Reading (2 minute read)

9 thoughts on “Pumpkins evolved to be eaten by wooly mammoths and giant sloths. Pumpkins would likely be extinct today if ancient humans hadn’t conserved them.”

  1. open_door_policy

    Same for avocados and a few other giantish fruits.

  2. ReverendDexter

    That’s why they’re bright orange… and slow moving.

  3. sittty

    Now just imagine the amount of plants that actually went extinct that we know nothing about.

  4. gahblahblah

    I didn’t realise things ‘evolved to be eaten’, but I guess it is hard to explain fruit otherwise.

  5. monkeyman9608

    But giant sloths would not be extinct if humans had conserved THEM

  6. guruscotty

    And now I just picture a mammoth walking around with a huge pumpkin speared on the end of each tusk.

  7. sedition-

    I’m glad that this is how it went down seeing as pumpkin pie is the ultimate pie.

  8. wallabeen

    humans not so much conserved them but ate them too. why not describe it as being evolved to be eaten by humans? but what you know as a pumkin, size, shape & taste, is the result of centuries of selective farming.

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