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Were giant ground sloths the original dispersal agents for Osage Oranges? (Maclura pomifera) – Marlin Peterson
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Were giant ground sloths the original dispersal agents for Osage Oranges? (Maclura pomifera)

were giant ground sloths responsible for the hugeness of this fruit?

This striking idea was fascinating to stumble on…Jon Wagner mentioned it to me in passing one day and shortly thereafter a wikipedia search revealed this curious mystery:

“The fruit is sometimes torn apart by squirrels to get at the seeds, but few other native animals make use of it as a food source. This is unusual, as most large fleshy fruit serves the function of seed dispersal by means of its consumption by large animals. One recent hypothesis is that the Osage-orange fruit was eaten by a giant ground sloth that became extinct shortly after the first human settlement of North America. Other extinct Pleistocene megafauna, such as the mammoth, mastodon and gomphothere, may have fed on the fruit and aided in seed dispersal.”

I had to illustrate it then!  After rendering the skull and the tree foliage, I realized I had to take it a bit further to include the lips and tongue, and the moment of plucking one of these grapefruit sized fruits off the branch.  Perhaps to limit myself from criticism of discriminating against the other mentioned animals that might also have been dispersers, I need to do one of each of those as well?

Something certainly as fascinating and related to this subject are dinosaurs and their long dispersal relationship and coevolution with cycads.

1 Comment

  • Gabe K

    Wow, cool find and nice job on the picture. I would like to see your other illustrations of the subject. Where can I find them?

    January 5, 2013 at 1:31 PM

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