Things That Matter

In Amazing Science News, We’ve Mapped The DNA Of Avocados And This Is Why That’s A Big Deal

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In recent news of science doing what science does best, a team of researchers have just successfully sequenced the avocado genome. 

And, yes, it’s a big deal. Like life will never be the same for us kind of big deal. The joint study was published earlier this week and used genomics to uncover the ancient origins of avocados. It also investigated how we mere mortals can improve our avocado farming to increase output of this delicious fruit. 

The heroes of the hour are researchers at the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity (LANGEBIO) in Mexico, Texas Tech University, and the University at Buffalo. 

Aside from being an incredible cool endeavour, here’s a taste of why this study has us so excited. 

This data provides vital clues that will help us optimise avocado production. AKA, GROW MORE AVOS FOR CHEAP. 

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Avocados naturally have a long life cycle, which can make breeding programs difficult. Now that we can better understand avocado DNA, it should help scientists come up with breeding methods that are way more efficient. They also hope that DNA sequencing will also help them improve the disease resistance of avocado plants – in turn making them easier to grow. 

In a world where avocados are getting more and more unaffordable, this sort of good news is music to our ears. 

Because no, it’s not just you – the price of avocados has skyrocketed in recent months, and are at their highest in at least a decade. It’s come to the point where some restaurants in the US are increasing the prices of any menu items containing avocado, or just taking out the ingredient altogether. It’s a travesty.  

Thankfully, there’s now hope that avocados will be more affordable in future.

The global market for avocados was worth $13 billion in 2017.

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The slippery, glorious avocado skyrocketed to international adoration in the 20th century. Today, it’s smeared on tortillas, smashed on toast, blended in smoothies and added to soups.

A Mexican eats, on average, more than seven kilos of avocado a year. So it’s no surprise they’re also the world’s greatest producer – exporting $2.5 billion to the US last year alone. As demand continues to rise in the United States, so prices are continuing to rise.

So, finding a way to increase and optimise avocado crop is kind of a big deal. 

It could mean the atrocity of avocado-less “mock guacamole” is canceled. 

Chilango recently wrote up an exposure of the sneaky mock-guac that some taquerias in Mexico have begun to serve in an attempt to overcome rising avocado prices. 

It could mean more that the aguacate in your torta is actually visible to the naked eye. 

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What’s also exciting is that there’s a chance that scientists will now be able to create avocados fruit with new tastes and textures. 

That means potentially NEW and improved ways to explore your undying love for avocado. 

It could mean that the days of pit-slip knife cuts are over. Seeds are so 2019.

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Okay, we have no idea if this is true but how great would that be? Because ‘avocado hand’ is a real, medical term. One can dream. 

What else did we learn from the study? 

We now know the origins of the Hass avocado.

Credit: fourwindsgrowers.com

Oh, you know Hass – everyone does. 

While avocados come in many shapes and sizes, Hass avocados are by far the most common variant grown and exported around the world. 

Scientists have always suspected the Hass avocado was a hybrid, though the genetic ratios were previously unknown. Through DNA sequencing, researchers now know that the Hass is a mix of 61% Mexican avocado and 39% Guatemalan avocado genes. 

They’re also genetically identical to the first Hass avocados planted in the 1920s, grown by grafting branches of existing trees onto new rootstocks. Cool eh?

And we now understand more about the avocado’s humble beginnings.

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Although now something of a trending food, avocados have been important to Central and South American sustenance for a long, long time. The Aztecs changed the course of history when they mashed up avocados to make a sauce called āhuacamolli (say that aloud – sound familiar?)

The oldest found avocado pit was discovered in Coxcatlan Cave some 9,000 – 10,000 years ago. In fact, scientists speculate that in prehistoric times, avocados (in a different form) may have been eaten by megafauna like giant sloths, who helped the avocado plants spread by pooping out seeds across the land. 

Now, is there really a better image than giant sloths munching on ancient avos?

In regards to family history, the avocado fits into a plant group called magnoliids, which split  from other flowering plant species about 150 million years ago. Scientists now have a much greater understanding of their relationship to these plants, and how their genes have developed through the course of time. 

Can we now protect our precious avocados from climate change?

Lastly, the study is especially important since avocados are expected to be heavily impacted by climate change.

A report released last month by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) predicted that, at the rate we were going, California could lose 40 percent of its avocado supply by 2050.

One of the biggest reasons understanding avocado DNA is so important, so we can make sure we carry this glorious fruit with us deep into the future. 

Said Luis Herrera-Estrella, who helped conceive the study: “We hope that the Mexican Government keeps supporting these types of ambitious projects that use state-of-the-art technology to provide a deep understanding of the genetics and genomics of native Mexican plants.”

This Donkey Has Been Released From A Mexican Jail After Public Outcry

Things That Matter

This Donkey Has Been Released From A Mexican Jail After Public Outcry

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A burro walls free after spending more than 72 hours in a local Mexican jail. He was booked and thrown in there because his owners, a couple in their eighties, were unable to pay their property taxes. 

Together with the help of a local animal welfare group, the donkey is a free from the jail cell and is once again back with his owners. 

Animal lovers everywhere are celebrating the news of a burros release from jail.

A donkey has been freed from jail in San Sebastián Río Dulce, Oaxaca, after 72 hours behind bars through the efforts of an animal rights organizations.

The animal was arrested over the weekend for its owners’ inability to pay local taxes.

Pascual Cruz and Alejandra Mejía, both in their 80s, did not have the means to pay the taxes, which other residents have denounced as abusively high.

After hearing that the couple had been refused the right to take the donkey food and water during its detention, animal rights activists in the state united to file an animal cruelty case with the state Attorney General’s Office.

Oaxaca animal rights group president Hilda Toledo said that activists had planned on going to Río Dulce to protest but the town is considered dangerous and outsiders must solicit authorization to enter, so they chose the legal route.

It all started when a couple in their eighties allegedly didn’t pay taxes. 

A donkey was booked into the town jail in San Sebastián Río Dulce, Oaxaca, apparently for unpaid property taxes.

In a truly cruel move, the city’s tax agent ordered the animals arrest so that the elderly couple wouldn’t be able to transport the firewood they use for cooking. But  Pascual Cruz and Alejandra Mejía, 88 and 86-years-old respectively, say they’ve been caught up in a power struggle between groups trying to take control of local resources. 

Authorities in the Mexican state of Oaxaca came to seize the couple’s burro.

Even though the couple says they only use the burro for domestic uses around the house, not for economic gain, the tax agent seized the donkey and placed it in the town jail. 

The incarceration was denounced by the Network of United Animal Rights Activists of Oaxaca.

“It may not be of much interest or importance to others, but it is for the animal’s owners,” said the organization in a Facebook post, “given that it is one of their most valuable possessions, since they use it to transport firewood from the hills to their home.”

The burro was being held without food or water and many people around Mexico were upset by the animal cruelty.

The couple also claims to have been refused the right to take the animal food and water during several days of imprisonment.

Many people around the world were really concerned for the donkey – some even writing to PETA for help.

One Twitter user wrote to to PETA and. Arjona animal rights supporting celebrities including Ricky Gervais. It’s not clear if any of them were involved in the release of the burro. 

Strangely, this isn’t the first time a donkey has been placed under arrest and thrown behind bars.

Another Mexican donkey landed itself in jail after biting and kicking two men.

The animal was locked up in a holding pen normally used for keeping drunks off the streets after it lashed out at the pair at a ranch in Chiapas state. 

The owner of the angry burro, Mauro Gutierrez, was told that he‘d have to pay the injured men’s medical bills before the creature is released from custody.

Mexico And The World Mourn The Loss Of Celso Piña, One Of Mexico’s Greatest Musicians

Entertainment

Mexico And The World Mourn The Loss Of Celso Piña, One Of Mexico’s Greatest Musicians

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If there’s one instrument that best describes Mexican music is has to be the accordion. While the musical key instrument known as a squeezebox has its origins in Europe, it indeed came alive in Mexico as the staple sound in rancheras and cumbias. There is only one musician who thrived through the accordion sound, though sadly that is now a thing of the past.

Celso Piña, known as the “The Accordion Rebel,” died yesterday at the age of 66.

Credit: Instagram/@danonewillrise297

The Mexican musician was in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, and was soon scheduled to g on tour, but had a heart attack and died at the hospital.

La Tuna Group, Piña’s record label, confirmed in a statement that he died yesterday at 12:38 p.m. after suffering a heart attack.

Credit: Instagram/@mexicoprimero_

“Today is a sad day for La Tuna Group,” they stated, “Our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and followers. We are left with an intense emptiness, but he leaves us his great legacy forever. We appreciate respecting the privacy of the family.”

Piña seemed to have been in good spirits earlier in the day and tweeted for the final time. “No one can resist the cumbia,” he said.

The self-taught musician had been touring off and on for months. He also had upcoming shows in Georgia and Texas.

The Grammy-award winning musician had a musical career that spanned 40 decades, and aside from his musical stylings as an accordion player, he was also a composer, singer, and arranger.

Credit: Instagram/@patanegra_mx

Piña had collaborated with several contemporary artists including Lila Downs, Julieta Venegas, Cafe Tacvba, and Gloria Trevi, Variety reports. He was also more than a cumbia musician. His sound also fused into other musical genres, including norteña music, hip-hop, ska, reggae, and more.

Several celebrity fans and collaborators tweeted their heartfelt condolences.

According to the Grammy Academy, Piña got his hands on his first accordion in 1980. He taught himself how to play and performed with his brothers. “Together, they went on to play norteña and tropical music, eventually adding cumbia to their style,” the Academy states. “The brothers became known as ‘Celso Piña Y Su Ronda Bogotá,’ giving a nod to cumbia’s motherland.”

Fans on social media also expressed how much Piña meant to them.

One fan, @iphadra, tweeted, “his greatness of # CelsoPiña is not due to its successes or fame in the 5 continents. It is because it was he who came to claim the music of the marginalized.” @JJ4rmCh tweeted, Rest In Peace Celso Piña, no one fucked it up on an accordion like u did.” But this tweet we could totally relate to from @jennjenn1_  who tweeted, “It wasn’t a real quince or wedding until you played some #CelsoPiña ❤️🇲🇽 🎶🎶🎶 may his music live on for generations to come.”

Writer Melissa del Bosque had the honor of being able to interview him. She tweeted, “Hearing ‘Barrio Bravo’ for the first time was a life-changing experience. Celso Piña and Toy Hernández, of Control Machete, had created a whole new hybrid mixing Colombian cumbia with the anarchy of urban streets. I went directly to Monterrey to interview El Rebelde del Acordeón. Here we are at Cafe Brasil, one of his favorite haunts. As I wrote then, when ‘Cumbia Sobre el Rio hit the airwaves there wasn’t a car from Chicago to Chiapas that didn’t have the bass booming and the sonic onslaught layered with accordion rattling their windows.’ #RipCelsoPina.”

Last year, Piña visited one of his biggest fans, who is also an accordion player just like him. The two performed in the streets of Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Herrera recalled what it was like hearing that his musical idol had died. The young musician told El Universal that he was with his daughter when he heard the news that Piña had died. He said he couldn’t believe it, and all the memories from his incredible visit with him last year rushed back to him. He said it was a dream to have been able to perform with him. 

Here’s a couple of his most beloved and hit songs.

Here’s “Cumbia Sobre el Rio Suena” live and with an orchestra! He had such a distinct voice and sound. There was no one else like him.

“No Sea Conmigo”

This was his collaboration with Cafe Tacvba. So lovely! We dare you not to dance to this one.

What’s your favorite Celso Piña track? Let us know in the comment section below. Rest in power, Celso!!

READ: This Isn’t Your Mama’s Cumbia: The Eclectic History Of Latin America’s Classic Music Genre

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