11/30/2021 01:14:43 pm

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World's Oldest Peach Pits Found in China at 2.5 Million Years Old

Fossilized peach pits discovered in China dating back more than 2.5 million years are identical to pits found in modern varieties of the fruit.

(Photo : Tao Su/Xishuangbanna Tropical Garden/Penn State) Fossilized peach pits discovered in China dating back more than 2.5 million years are identical to pits found in modern varieties of the fruit.

The oldest peach pits in the world have been uncovered near a bus station in China, as this new study can provide more crucial information about the mysterious evolution of the humble fruit.

Some eight fossilized peach endocarps or commonly known as pits apparently date back to 2.5 million years as they were discovered by Tao Su, a professor from the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. A rock outcrop was exposed near his home in Kunming where the pits were found, which is the Yunnan capital located in southwestern China, originating from the late Pliocene period.

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The fossils still appear modern in shape even if they were preserved in Pliocene layers according to Su. Su along with paleobotanist Peter Wilf from the Pennsylvania State University detailed their findings in this new study.

The team described the fossils as identical to modern peach endocarps, where their sizes are smaller to modern varieties involving possessing a single seed, deep dorsal groove and deep pits and furrows. This new study is suggesting how peaches which are juicy and sweet are similar to the ones consumed today, and could possibly be a popular snack even before humans began eating them.

Further analysis of the morphological characteristics of the pits revealed that they belong to the genus Prunus, as researchers name this species, Prunus kunmingensis.

This popular tree fruit yields 20 million tons every year worldwide which is also widely known to have originated in China. However, the evolution of the fruit remains a mystery. The last known evidence was uncovered in archaeological records some 8,000 years ago, however there is no wild population found during that time.

Now, the discovery of the Prunus kunmingensis is strong evidence of this, suggesting that the peach originally came from China. Wilf says that the peach was present in China even before human colonization where it eventually co-existed with humans.

Using electron microscopic analysis, the seeds inside the flattened pits were replaced by iron oxides revealing that these fossils are more than 2.3 million years old, via radiocarbon dating. Researchers believe that the Prunus kunmingensis measured about 5.2 centimeters in diameter based on its pits and modern peaches', looking like the smallest commercial peach today.

This new study is published in Scientific Reports. 

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