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Earth Science

Scientists Solve Mystery of World-Traveling Plant 52

Posted by samzenpus
from the long-journey dept.
sciencehabit writes "By land or by sea? That's the question scientists have been pondering for decades when it comes to the bottle gourd, a plant with a hard-skinned fruit that's used by cultures all over the world to make lightweight containers and other tools. Archaeologists know that people were using domesticated bottle gourds in the Americas as early as 10,000 years ago. But how did the plant make the jump from its original home in Africa to the New World with an ocean in the way? A new study overturns previous evidence pointing to a human-assisted land migration and concludes that the bottle gourd floated across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas on its own."
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Scientists Solve Mystery of World-Traveling Plant

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  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Monday February 10, 2014 @06:40PM (#46213319) Journal
    Did they really investigate the theory that it was carried by a swallow?
    • by Lehk228 (705449) on Monday February 10, 2014 @06:43PM (#46213335) Journal
      african or european swallow?
      • Irrelevant, there isn't enough fibrous husk on the bottle gourd for a swallow (or pair thereof) to grip on to.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Are you suggesting that a tiny little swallow lofted a bottle gourd across an ocean? It would take a small flock of swallows harnessed to a gourd, and even then they could only sustain flight for an hour or so. And where would they have gotten a harness tens of thousands of ago? And why have no bottle gourd swallow harnesses been discovered in the fossil record??

      Now pigeons. Pigeons could do it. At least for the smaller oceans. But that still doesn't explain WHY they should gather together and haul a

    • by MrKevvy (85565)

      Follow the gourd!

    • by s.petry (762400)

      They gave a bunch of crap and claimed to know the answer. Typical "science" lately, I guess.

      They believe based on DNA that the gourds in the Americas are more similar to African gourds than Asian. That's something, but they can't explain the Asian gourds or origin. So I'm not sure how they can claim to know that the gourds traveled by Ocean, when we have humans that traveled further back than 10,000 years.

      I guess if you assume that nobody could boat back then, they would be on to something. Vessels made

      • by cusco (717999)

        Ten thousand years ago they were mostly rafts, rather than boats, but people were definitely using them on the open sea. Hell, 60,000 years ago they made it to Australia, well out of sight of land for most of the trip across a straight with very strong currents and foul weather. The question about the African bottle gourd is that the thing has been domesticated for so long that it can't reproduce reliably without help. The seeds never sprout because water never gets to them unless it is broken open. For

        • by riverat1 (1048260)

          60,000 years ago in the middle of the last glaciation (ice age) sea level was about 120 meters (400 feet) lower than it is today. The original Australians probably walked most of the way and may not have had crossings that got out of sight of land. After all humans got to the Americas by walking across the Bering land bridge.

          • by cusco (717999)

            From what I've read the Australian continent never joined the rest of the continents since the breakup of Gonwandaland, which is the reason for the survival of the isolated marsupials. The introduction of placental mammals to Australia, first humans, later dogs, then finally rats, Englishmen and rabbits, is devastating the less biologically-efficient marsupials. Flores Island, in the southern reach of Indonesia, has never been joined to the mainland either, but hosted populations of dwarf rhino dwarf eleph

            • by riverat1 (1048260)

              Australia may have never been joined to Asia as you say but the reduced sea level would have considerably reduced the width of the straits they had to cross.

  • Ancient (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tom229 (1640685) on Monday February 10, 2014 @06:45PM (#46213345)
    Aliens.
  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday February 10, 2014 @06:57PM (#46213421) Homepage Journal
  • I'm pretty sure this was settled by monty python... the swallows carry them!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10, 2014 @07:34PM (#46213657)

    Walked out this morning. Don't believe what I saw. A hundred billion gourds washed up on the shore. Sending out their DNA.

  • Tsunami (Score:5, Interesting)

    by retroworks (652802) on Monday February 10, 2014 @07:37PM (#46213683) Homepage Journal
    How often do tsunamis happen, and how big do they get? Japanese gourds wound up all over the North American Pacific beaches. http://www.npr.org/2013/02/06/... [npr.org]
  • Its always the answer to the unanswerable.

  • "Are you suggesting that bottle gourds migrate?"
  • ... they'll explain why, other than south of the diagonal from New Jersey to east Texas, Oregon is the only place in the U.S. to find kudzu.

  • This idea is not news - it has been around for a long time - and it is probably not correct either.

    The problem: if the gourds floated across to the new world and washed up on a beach, the seeds could not grow in the sand. They need a richer substrate to grow and reproduce; beach sand will not do it. How they might have ended up in the kind of rich soil they need is still unexplained.

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      Maybe some of them went up a river on the incoming tide and found some nice river silt to germinate in. Or maybe some happened to get washed far enough inland on a storm surge. There's lots of possibilities and lots of time for something uncommon to happen.

  • That this was about a factory? When I first read the title, I thought along the lines of "Travelling Salesman Problem" and that this was about moving the production efficiently close to the consumption. I was so upbeat and summarily crushed upon reading the first sentence. Article is still good, but wrong expectations. Its going to be one of those days....

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