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Dinosaur food: 100M year old foods we still eat today


I appreciate the caveat of "morphologically", otherwise chicken would of made that list, as would of the entire avian population. has a nice list of plants of the era and "Black peppers" seems to be one that ticks the box's and not upon the list.


Dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets always get a chuckle out of me.


Once we get Jurassic Park up and running we can get chicken shaped dinosaur nuggets.


Kentucky Fried Theropods


Funny we have to euphemise "nuggets" to suppress the true horrors and terrors of meat production. You're getting a chuckle because your brain is off.


To the contrary, nuggets are environmentally friendly. They take a waste product and turn it into gold that people fight over and pay big bucks for.

Its essence of chicken, without all the work of separating and eating the meat yourself.


Thanks! I can't find evidence that black pepper in particular is that old. I'm not sure what Eden Project is, but I can't find any references on the page you linked.

Searching around a bit:

[1] claims Myocene (5-20M years ago)

[2] claims the genus is as old as the Upper Cretaceous (100M years ago), but I don't see the Piper Nigrum (black pepper) species in Table 1.

So, it seems to be a bit more modern than some of the other plants in my post. Please correct me if I missed anything, or if you find a good source!




"would have"


Alternatively, would've


I'd've thought so too.


Thank you.


No problem, Zenst. It's a common error.


I regularly eat bunya nuts from the Australian bunya or false monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria bidwillii). It is said to have appeared in the Jurassic (~200 - 145 mya). They are very tasty.


I scrolled looking for these. I get a few every year at my place but tend to marvel at their size, eat a couple raw then throw them away. I've tried oven/fire roasting them like we do macadamias but wasnt too great. Any preparation you recommend?

For people that dont know these, think pine cone thats a little bigger than a bowling ball. They are pretty amazing looking things.


I leave the cone in a bowl until the individual seeds just start separating. Then I pull them off and put them on a tray and in the oven (~150 degrees) for 10 - 15 mins.


I’m surprised to hear this — living in Sydney, I don’t recall ever seeing any. Where do you find them?

(There’s a smallish bunya-bunya near my house, but I don’t think I’ll try gathering nuts from there myself…)


I am up in Brisbane. I get them from my brother who has a few trees on his property in Maleny. I used to get them from the staff at Roma Street Parkland.


Ah, interesting. In that case, if I want some, I guess I’ll just have to wait until I find a cone myself!


It's heavy on plants but plants seem like a trickier source for fossil foods since most plants we eat are domesticated and/or otherwise evolutionarily recent - we eat lots of grasses. Animals we catch might be a good source for new entries - sharks and sturgeons are ancient, hagfish are eaten. Maybe some of the edible seaweeds haven't changed much morphologically?


It's pretty fascinating how recent most plant foods humans eat are.

As you note, grasses (wheat, rice, oats, rye, barley, ...) and maize are both recent developments and exceedingly selected and hybridised by humans.

Both grasses and flowering plants post-date the first emergence of dinosaurs.

Numerous other crops are similarly recent: stone fruits, pomes, etc. Others were available locally but not worldwide: potatoes and tomatoes. I suspect tubers and berries may be among the older plant foods eaten.


Some sort of global disaster appears to have occurred around 12,000 years ago, with evidence of massive flooding and wildfires and dramatic shifts in climate happening over the course of days and weeks all over the world.

Agriculture and advanced culture may have existed prior to the event, but it looks like the source for flood myths. Aside from Gobekli Tepe and a handful of other sites, it appears most knowledge and culture was lost. People had to start from scratch, so agriculture begins at most 12,000 years ago, comprising almost every plant we eat today. There's no way to know what might have been utterly lost.

There's evidence of modern humans going back almost 300,000 years. (Crazy to think we were without dogs for ~260k years. Humans are better with dogs around. )

Humans probably invented language and writing and all sorts of proto-sciences many times over those hundreds of millenia, but everything before 12,000 years back is gone. There's virtually no evidence of the vast majority of human culture before then. Entropy sucks.


There's relatively little archaeological evidence of ancient humans generally. The conditions favouring preservation are fairly strict.

Given that:

1. Human populations tend to travel along and settle near coastlines and rivers, or in low valleys with rich soils whether supporting agriculture or nonagricultural hunter-gatherer societies.

2. Sea levels during the Quaternary Glaciations periods of maximum glacial extent were as much as 100m (330ft) lower than today. Many settlements, communities, and artefacts would be under water now, and many likely degraded.

3. Glaciers themselves would destroy many other terrestrial remains in regions subject to glaciation. Glaciers in particular scour valleys.

The Quatenary Glaciations are multiple periods of cooling and warming extending back over 2.86 million years ... or roughly the entire time since genus homo split from its common ancestors with chimpanzees. Anatomically modern humans are about 200,000 years old. Much of our evolutionary and anthropological history has been subjected to the same stresses and transformations of repeated periods of glaciation and warming.

The places that traces would likely remain tend to be lower latitudes, nearer the equator, away from coasts, and geologically reasonably stable --- sedimentation helps preserve remains, violent tectonic activity not so much. This tends to favour Africa and south-central Asia.


This is an I interesting idea I haven’t heard before - do you have any sources on this?


> Both grasses and flowering plants

Grasses are a type of flowering plant


Point, though given the present significance of both the broader class of flowering plants, and the specific case of grasses, it's worth noting each individually.


This looks like a pretty interesting abstract:


Anyone know where I can pick up some "monkey puzzle tree nuts" in the United States?


The experimental farm network has them for sale - apparently they'll be available March-April.


Those trees are awesome! Look almost alien but also something I could imagine the dinosaurs eating.


There are some massive examples in Seattle. They are hard to miss and very peculiar. I believe they are an import from the west coast of South America:


3-4 decades to maturity, before you can harvest seeds, and it looks like you need male and female plants to cause seeding - I wonder if that can be gamed by grafting from mature trees, or artificial hormone sprays?

3-5 cm pine nuts sound awesome, though. 50m tall trees with giant cones and tasty nuts that can live a thousand years - a grove of these on a farm seems like a cool legacy investment, with little chance of becoming invasive or problematic.


Not trying to be facetious. but maybe look out for monkey puzzle trees in your area? If you're in the PNW, there a few around:


Apparently there are quite a few in the Portland area. Someone has been mapping them.


I used to ride my bike around every late summer gathering them from people's lawns.

The trees have sexes, so one has to find the female trees.

There are quite a few in Portland, and all relatively the same age because they were given away at the lewis and Clark exposition of 1905 by a representative from Chile.


The monkey puzzle tree or araucaria can be found in southern Argentina and southern Chile. The nuts are locally known as "piñon" (singular) / "piñones" (plural).

It is not my favourite nut I must say, but the flavor is OK.


They're also common in southern Brazil and Australia. There's an entire region in Brazil known as "Araucaria forest".

I love their flavor, by the way.


Do keep in mind that these are very large trees and the leaves(needles) are very prickly to deal with. It takes a long time for them to mature and I have heard people in Seattle say that they never produce cones here.

There are several in our neighborhood, including our neighbor, but the homeowners obviously have no idea how large those trees will get based on where they are planted.


They're found virtually everywhere in Florida.


Might be hard to find considering they're endangered


One interesting thing that might be hard to fit into here is the vast vast variety of "spring greens" different human cultures have eaten for a really long time that have since been forgotten about.

Spring is a time of a lot of growth, and young plant growth tends to be the least likely to have bitter or toxic compounds so there are a ton of plants that were munched on in the springtime and only then. Some of them, like spinach or many brassicas, were then domesticated, but many of them remained wild.

My parents grew up in Romania and had many plants they would munch on as kids while outside. And it seems to have been thought of as "kids food" since they weren't really collected in large quantities to make meals.

A lot of these forgotten edibles are often rediscovered in times of economic failures. If you pick up any foraging book today, a ton of that knowledge can be traced back to the Great Depression when people had to rediscover what foods they can rely on


Interesting that the common name of Ginkgo biloba is supposedly "Maidenhair nuts".

I prefer "Ginkgo biloba".


just to point out, the Araucaria Araucana gives "piñón" (a type of pine nut, but not the same). they can be made into flour or be eaten after boiling.


Thanks! The article is open source, so feel free to submit a change directly:


i just want to know, do they really use the name "monkey puzzle tree" in english speaking countries? i was a little surprised to see that name, given that araucaria is the accepted name for the tree (in spanish).

If we dig deeper in the rabbit hole, araucaria is the name given to the tree (and the zone where the tree grows, and the indigenous (mapuche) people that inhabited, and keeps inhabiting the land) by the spanish empire.

The original name (newen) was given by the mapuche people. "piñon" is also a mapuche word and while we use "araucaria" when refering to the tree, we use "piñón" instead of "araucaria nut". to refer to the edible part.


I’ve definitely heard Araucaria araucana called “monkey puzzle” quite often in English, and many people in Australia mistakenly call the bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii) “monkey puzzle” as well because they are closely related species and look fairly similar (I’m from Australia). There are several species of Araucaria in Australia though, so many people would also be aware of the Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) and probably the hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii). I think some people who are familiar with the different species would probably understand that if you said “Araucaria” you would be probably be referring to Araucaria araucana.


Apparently 'pinon' simply means "pine nut" in spanish. It makes sense as initially the plant was (mis)named pinus araucana.


My Partner had a Monkey Puzzle tree (her description) in her backyard in London. Add me to the anecdote list :)




> Note: I’m a hobbyist, and not a paleobotanist. Additions and edits are welcome, if I misclassified or missed anything.

When does one cross the threshold from hobbyist to paleobotanist? Or from hobbyist to [insert research title]?


When there are consequences for you being wrong


Not the wisdom I was expecting to find in this HN post, but it absolutely is the perfect description for when someone can be considered a "professional" of anything.


Probably when you get paid to do work in the field


Probably when most other [insert reasearch title] would also classify you as a [insert reasearch title] instead of a hobbyist.


When the PhD is conferred.


I’m a big fan of H2O.

The reason I’m posting that here is because for many years I don’t drink it. I was so used to hydrating from soda and other beverages advertised on TV I completely lost touch with plain old H2O.

Then one day I rediscovered its pure refreshing goodness. What a surprise! I savoured it and marvelled at the pureness of the way it quenched my thirst.

Water! Quenching thirst since before the dinosaurs.

Affordable. Convenient if you have a tap. Amazing on a hot day if you have a fridge and a pitcher.


Someone recently was exclaiming how good water was. We had been drinking heavily and I insisted they drank water while we were drinking alcohol since they were complaining about hangovers. They woke up with no hang over.

It turns out they just don't really drink water. It's always something in a can - flavored seltzers or soft drinks.

It kinda blew my mind that there are people out there who don't drink water. It feels as natural as breathing to me.


My kids had friends (round 10 yo) who claimed they did not like the taste of water. That blew their minds since they'd been drinking water their whole life.

It is still the main beverage we drink, and there are still those who never drink it. Incredible.


To be fair, tap water in different places tastes different. If you're in a rural area of the US with well-water, what comes out of the faucet can have a strong rusty taste.


There's something very wrong with the first world when people discover drinking water. I'm not singling you out, I've heard the same story from other people, usually from the US, and it's mind boggling to me. I know it's the parents fault.

It's like discovering that clean air is pretty good for you and feels nice when inhaled.


> I know it's the parents fault.

True. But it might also be because tap water in the places I have been in the US (mostly Raleigh NC) is really not a very pleasant drink.


That is not true of most areas in the US where tap water is fine to drink. Some localities do have high concentrations of iron or sulfates in the water that taint the flavor.


Soda isn't more convenient than buying bottled water in a shop, so I don't think it's because of water quality.


> It's like discovering that clean air is pretty good for you

Still waiting for this discovery to reach the mainstream so I can live somewhere that has banned cars...


Erasmus Darwin wrote in "A Plan for the Conduct of Female Education, in Boarding Schools":

   "For the drink of the more robust children water is preferable, and for the weaker ones, small beer..."
Sounds rather...Darwinian.


That's perhaps from the days when water wasn't quite as clean as it could be, and other drinks were preferred.


Beer is basically liquid bread, so it's nutritious (or at least has calories). Small beer has low alcohol so you don't get drunk


I used to drink soda for every meal and I went down like 2 inches on my waist size when I stopped. I mean I did eventually gain that back, I guess, but it took years.


How much soda did you drink? I can't imagine a small can of coke makes a difference.


I have heard folk wisdom to the effect that a can of Coke a day results a pound of weight gain per month. According to this (somewhat dubious) article, 20oz of soda per day results a pound of weight gain per week!


A glass of soda with every meal, maybe more than that. Either way a can of Coke is over 100 calories that don't make you feel full.


Soda and other beverages are also 98%+ H₂O though. By most standards even beer would count as technical grade H₂O.


Soda is 98% water and 46% sugar.




After watching How to Grow a Planet, I thought about this same question.

Considering flowers appeared to the end of the dinosaur era, there wouldn't be much to eat, except the dinosaurs themselves, and other animals (lots of sea food!).

It's interesting to read about these other plants.


Flowers are necessary for fruit, but not for plants in general. Plants and algae and fungi existed long long before flowers evolved. You can still rely on leaves (spinach, lettuce, chard, etc), roots/tubers (yams, potatoes, carrots, etc), stems (celery, asparagus, bamboo, etc), and many other parts. Not to mention the majority of lichen are edible and the many many edible mushroom species. Also edible algae and seaweeds


Yes, but Dicotyledons are pretty important in our current diet.


Makes me wonder what dinosaurs taste like. And what other delicious plants they had back then.


My guess is they taste like chicken. After all, birds evolved from dinosaurs, and things like frog legs taste like chicken.


Ostrich also evolved from the dinosaurs and has its own unique taste. I bet it varied though probably the range of bird meat tastes is a good place to put our first guesses.


No need to wonder, just go sample some birds.

More to the intent of the question, maybe the more reptilian, ancient ones tasted closer to crocodiles.