What Color Were Tomatoes Before All the Dinosaurs Died?

Illustration for article titled What Color Were Tomatoes Before All the Dinosaurs Died?

New research published in Nature suggests that the very same meteor that crashed into Earth 60 - 70 million years ago—the one responsible for wiping out all the dinosaurs—may also be responsible for the red color of today's tomatoes.

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Parsing Nature's tomato genome analysis, PhysOrg reports that about the same time as the meteorite crash and the solar eclipse, the distant ancestor of the tomato plant tripled in size—an drastic and important response, as it is indicative of stressful growth conditions for plant life at that time.

The ancestor tomato, explains Rene Klein Lankhorst, "reacted by expanding its genome considerably in order to increase its chances of survival." When conditions on Earth improved again, explains PhysOrg, this ancestor of the plant got rid of a lot of genetic ballast, "but the genetic base for fruit formation had already been developed," including the tomato's signature red hue.

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One nagging question remains: What color were tomatoes originally, in the dinosaur days? [PhysOrg via Inhabitat - Image via Yasonya/Shutterstock]

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DISCUSSION

Is this a new sort of Creationist Young Earth Evolution?

Dinosaurs ate tomatoes?????? Really????

I've been a big fan of Solanids (the tomato family) for a few decades, but somehow never dug for their paleohistory as much as I have today.

Going on old information, I would have guessed that the solanids appeared in the Cretaceous, and maybe they did. Or maybe it was later. But it is almost certain that they were not any of the solanids that exist today. just as there are no longer any crocodiles, birds, mice, or fish species that lived during the cretaceous.

Reading that tomatoes tripled in size back then, one should not think of the "Big Boy" type garden tomatoes. Before Columbus tomatoes were the size of berries, which would indicate that the ancient relatives bore lentil-size fruit at best.

There's one crucial phrase in the [phys.org] article:

. . . . . . . . . "We suspect"

As far as Science goes (i.e. the Stuff We Actually KNOW), what is newly known today is that the Tomato Genome has been mapped.

What that genome discloses is that Tomatoes (and maybe all solanids) seem to have appeared suddenly about 65 Mya.

OMG It Appeared Suddenly!!!!!

Quick throw around some guesses that don't make it look so (ugh!) Sudden!

Oh, maybe it had ancestors that weren't red-fruited??? And they were smaller. Yeah, that's the ticket.

What a hideous, frantic shoring-up of Orthodoxy.

Why not just celebrate the newly acquired Science of the genome and extrapolate what can be accomplished now with that knowledge?