Field of Science

ancient Native American squash revived


This is one very good looking squash.  It's from a news report of viable 800-yr old squash seeds was sent to TPP. Could squash seeds actually be viable 800 years after burial?  Good question. That they are old is without question, but how old. The article says the clay pot was dated to 800 years of age, but were the seed also carbon-dated?  12 yr-old is not necessarily in a12-yr-old bottle, a 100 yr old bottle does not make the scotch any older. The point being that the age of the vessel doesn't necessarily date the contents. But even so these seeds were buried for a long time and it's pretty interesting to see such a fine-looking variety of squash revived. 800 year old viable seed of any plant is pretty extraordinary, so skepticism is warrented. The article also says the "species" was thought extinct. What? How did they know it existed? Clearly that is just wrong, this is not a different species of squash or an extinct species, it would be a unique old heritage variety lost from cultivation, which is still pretty neat, but this is just sloppy reporting TPP thinks. A lot of people throw taxonomic labels around willy-nilly without understanding their significance. There are over 400 varieties of squash, but only 4 species. Personally TPP would like to see what the molecular data says in the hands of a Cucurbita taxonomist. Hey Mac are you paying attention here?

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