According to a new study that looks into the evolution of peach, the oldest peach remains were found in China near a bus station.
Tao Su, a professor at a botanical garden, was the one who found eight fossilized peach pits near his house in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan located in the southwest of China. The peach pits have been preserved in a rock dating from the Pliocene era. Forming a team with other scientists, Tao Su further investigated his finding and published the details in Scientific Reports.
What is striking about the fossil peach pits is that they are identical to modern peach endocarps. They have pretty much the same size as some of the smaller modern types, a deep dorsal groove, many deep pits and furrows and a single seed. According to their discoveries, researchers believe peaches were consumed as a snack long before human existence.
The origins of the peach
Scientists concluded that these pits belonged to peaches from the genus Prunus and proposed the name of Prunus kunmingensis for the ancient peaches. They hope to be able to remake the evolution of this fruit based only on the pits they found, but not having the whole-plant will definitely by a challenge.
Although it comes as no surprise that the ancient pits were found in China, as it is widely-known that this is the place of origin for peaches, their evolutionary history still remains foggy.
The peach was already there when the first humans arrived in China. In time, through breeding and domestication peaches have started to develop in different ways, reaching the great variety we have today. However, before being domesticated and bred by humans, peaches evolved under natural selection meaning that the animals eating them were also dispersing their seeds.
These particular fossils date back to over 2.5 million years and they were very well preserved in the rocks from Pliocene era. With the help of an electron microscope analysis scientists were able to discover that the seeds were replaced by iron oxides. Moreover, radiocarbon dating helped them to make an approximation of the fossils’ age to about 50,000 years.
What the ancient peach looked like
According to researchers’ measurements, the ancient Prunus kunmingensis was the same size as the smallest peach variety we can find today. This is about 2.05 inches in diameter.
All in all, although rather small for our modern taste, the ancient peach doesn’t seem to be very different from the varieties we have today. Besides, with the help of these newly found pits, scientists might be able to reconstruct an evolutionary history of the peach that can even give us a peek into ancient human agriculture.
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