bananas (Musa) in America

Bernard Ortiz de Montellano bortiz at
Thu Aug 21 15:53:04 EST 1997

In article <5tho0h$3f6$1 at>, yuku at (Yuri Kuchinsky) wrote:

> Many thanks, Michael, for this further and more recent data. I suppose the
> mystery of the ancient American banana is becoming easier to understand
> now. 
> It seems that the info you provided leaves no room for doubt that Musa was
> present in America before Columbus. I just wonder now how solid was the
> evidence on which the mainstream botanists based their conclusions that
> Musa was native to Asia...
> Is it possible that Musa was taken from America at a very early date and
> became so common in Asia that it could have been mistaken for being native
> to Asia? 
> So it now seems that 2 scenarios are possible, either the one above, or
> the indepent domestication in both America and Asia. 
> Best wishes,
> Yuri.
You have to pay attention to time. One cannot glide effortlessly across
millions of years. Sternberg's post speaks to the presence of, please
notice, *Ensete* not *Musa* in the same family but not the same genera in
Oregon 43 MILLION years ago. This says nothing about the presence of Musa
acuminata triploids in the last 10,000 years in South America. Sternberg
(private communication) pointed out that this would require other kinds of

43 million years ago not only were there no humans there were no apes, or
the common ancestor of humans and apes such as *Proconsul*. Thousands, if
not millions, of species of plants and animals have become extinct in this
lenght of time. Remember that there were no horses in the New World when
Columbus arrived even though our most complete record of horse evolution
is found in North America.

Re your comments on domestication. Humans only domesticated plants about
10-11,000 years ago a miniscule time compared to the time *Homo sp.*
wandered about as hunter-gatherers (1-2 million years) much less than 43
MILLION years.

Bernard Ortiz de Montellano
> Michael Sternberg (mstern at wrote:
> : See Manchester, S.R.,1995, Yes, We Had Bananas, Oregon geology V.57
> : No.2, p41-42
> : 
> : Abstract
> : "A fossil banana has been recovered from the middle Eocene Clarno
> : Formation, Wheeler County, Oregon.  The fruit is preserved as an
> : impression in lacustrine shale from the West Branch Creek assemblage. 
> : It is 4 cm. long, 1.5 cm, wide, and slightly curved and has well-defined
> : longitudinal and transverse striations.  Three rows of about ten seeds
> : are evident, and these seeds correspond in external form to
> : permineralized seeds that occur elsewhere in the Clarno Formation.  The
> : new information from fruit morphology, together with previous
> : investigations of seed structure, indicate that the Clarno banana
> : belongs to Ensete, a genus that is native to the Old World tropics
> : today.  The presence of this and many other tropical to subtropical
> : fruits in the Clarno Formation indicates that Oregon experienced a warm,
> : humid climate about 43 million years ago."
> : 
> : The Mustaceae contains three genera, Musa, Ensete and Musella.  The
> : familiar store bought banana is Musa acuminata, bred for negligible
> : seeds.

More information about the Bioforum mailing list