Things That Matter

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

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. 

Credit: Eater.LA.com

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.

Credit: madeinhonduras.net

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. 

Credit: recetapordia.es

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.

Credit: BetterLiving / YouTube

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.

Credit: these foreign roads.com

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.”

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Things That Matter

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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Mexico Plunges 23 Places On The World Happiness Report As The Country Struggles To Bounce Back

Things That Matter

Mexico Plunges 23 Places On The World Happiness Report As The Country Struggles To Bounce Back

When it comes to international happiness rankings, Mexico has long done well in many measurements. In fact, in 2019, Mexico placed number 23 beating out every other Latin American country except for Costa Rica. But in 2020, things looks a lot different as the country slipped 23 spots on the list. What does this mean for Mexico and its residents? 

Mexico slips 23 spots on the World Happiness Report thanks to a variety of compelling factors.

Mexico plummeted 23 places to the 46th happiest nation in the world, according to the 2020 happiness rankings in the latest edition of the United Nations’ World Happiness Report. The coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on Mexicans’ happiness in 2020, the new report indicates.

“Covid-19 has shaken, taken, and reshaped lives everywhere,” the report noted, and that is especially true in Mexico, where almost 200,000 people have lost their lives to the disease and millions lost their jobs last year as the economy recorded its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Based on results of the Gallup World Poll as well as an analysis of data related to the happiness impacts of Covid-19, Mexico’s score on the World Happiness Report index was 5.96, an 8% slump compared to its average score between 2017 and 2019 when its average ranking was 23rd.

The only nations that dropped more than Mexico – the worst country to be in during the pandemic, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg news agency – were El Salvador, the Philippines and Benin.

Mexico has struggled especially hard against the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Since the pandemic started, Mexico has fared far worse than many other countries across Latin America. Today, there are reports that Mexico has been undercounting and underreporting both the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths. Given this reality, the country is 2nd worst in the world when it comes to number of suspected deaths, with more than 200,000 people dead. 

Could the happiness level have an impact on this year’s elections?

Given that Mexico’s decline in the rankings appears related to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic here, one might assume that the popularity of the federal government – which has been widely condemned for its management of the crisis from both a health and economic perspective – would take a hit.

But a poll published earlier this month found that 55.9% of respondents approved of President López Obrador’s management of the pandemic and 44% indicated that they would vote for the ruling Morena party if the election for federal deputies were held the day they were polled.

Support for Morena, which apparently got a shot in the arm from the national vaccination program even as it proceeded slowly, was more than four times higher than that for the two main opposition parties, the PAN and the PRI.

Still, Mexico’s slide in the happiness rankings could give López Obrador – who has claimed that ordinary Mexicans are happier with him in office – pause for thought.

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