[ExI] Guns Germs and Steel

john clark jonkc at bellsouth.net
Fri Aug 19 19:47:13 UTC 2011

On Aug 17, 2011, at 4:00 PM, Kelly Anderson wrote:

"Some of the most important agricultural plant products are from the new world. Potato, Corn, etc. But for animals, the old world certainly had the upper hand. Don't have enough time to go through the whole list, but plants seems much more balanced than the animals."

There are about 200,000 species of wild plants but only a few hundred have any potential for domestication. In its wild form corn (called teosinte) is just barely worth bothering with, it is far less productive than the old-world's wild wheat, it produced much less seed. And the cool highlands of Mexico would have been perfect for potatoes, and llamas too, but neither spread there because of that north-south geography; they had to get to Mexico from their home in the Andes, but to do that they would have had to go through the hot lowlands of central America in which those species do not thrive. As a result Mexico had no potatoes and no pack animal and no domesticated animal of any sort except the dog. Humans started domesticating plants in the new-world about 3500BC, but for these and other reasons that was at least 5 thousand years after they started doing so in Asia-Europe.

 John K Clark  

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