World's Oldest Peach Pits Shed Light On The Evolution Of The Fruit

Posted: Dec 2 2015, 4:57am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
World's Oldest Peach Pits Shed Light on the Evolution of the Fruit
Credit: Nature Scientific Reports

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Peach fossils are 2.5 million years old and discoverd in China

The oldest-ever peach pits have been discovered in China which dates back to more than 2.5 million years ago.

These well-preserved fossilized peach pits shed new light on the evolutionary history of the sweet, juicy fruit. The eight newly-discovered are similar to the peaches which we eat today including their size resembled to modern dwarf varieties, they have deep pits and single seed in them.

"The peach is an important part of human history, and it's important to understand how it became what it is today," said Peter Wilf, a professor of paleobotany at Penn State and co-author of the study. "If we know the origins of our resources we can make better use of them."

These fossil remains were discovered during a road construction near a bus station in Kunming, Yunnan province, leaving the outcrop of the rock exposed.

"We found these peach endocarp fossils just exposed in the strata," said lead author Tao Su. "It's really a fantastic finding."

Peach is an extremely popular fruit and nearly 20 million tons of peaches are grown worldwide. China has the long history of the cultivation of the fruit and its widely believed that peaches originated in China.

According to Chinese archaeological records, the oldest evidence for the peach dates back to roughly 8,000 years. But there is very little information on how these peaches were evolved into their modern state. A close look at peach pits provided new details about their origin and history.

"If you imagine the smallest commercial peach today, that's what these would look like," said Wilf. "It's something that would have had a fleshy, edible fruit around it. It must have been delicious."

Peaches evolved their modern shape and characteristics through a natural procedure, presumably animals or even primates helped dispersing the fruit. Later on, peach sizes and varieties increased when modern humans arrived and started its domestication and breeding. From there, peaches spread across the China and beyond.

“Is the peach we see today something that resulted from artificial breeding under agriculture since prehistory, or did it evolve under natural selection? The answer is really both.” Wilf said

"The peach was a witness to the human colonization of China. It was there before humans, and through history we adapted to it and it to us."

The study was published in Natuare Scientific Report.

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