There’s a good chance that you’ve not really put any real thought to this question. Avocado is hardly a rare fruit, and human beings sure eat a lot of them for obvious reasons. I mean, they’re delicious, after all. But what wild animals eat avocado?
First, we know that avocados are indigenous to Central America, though it’s likely that their prehistoric range spread into the Amazon as well. We also know, looking at an avocado, that the animals that eat them would have to be big – maybe even bigger than a human being. After all, even though humans are pretty big animals, we certainly don’t have a wide enough throat to swallow them whole, let alone have them pass through our digestive systems (oof!).
There is another reason to think that the answer is not human beings. Looking at the fossil record, we know that avocados have been in Central America for many tens of thousands of years, whilst human beings have only been in Central America for about 13,000 years, give or take a millennium or two. Although human beings eat avocados now, avocados certainly did not evolve with us.
Accounting for those two facts, then, we know that whatever eats avocados is going to be a large Central American animal that is not a human being. Unfortunately, there are only two animals in the avocado’s natural range that are large enough to eat the fruit: alligators, and jaguars.
Yeah, we didn’t think so either. Something else – something neither alligator nor jaguar nor human being – eats avocados in the wild.
Or, should that be ate avocados in the wild?
As it happens, until quite recently (at least in geological terms), Central America was lousy with enormous herbivores. From the giant ground sloth Megatherium (pictured below), to the terrestrial hippopotamus Toxodon, to the mega armadillo Glyptodon, and the bizarre-looking Gompotheres, Central America was awash with packs of enormous, plant eating mammals – mammals, moreover, that were definitely large enough to eat an avocado whole.
Unfortunately, these enormous animals are no longer with us, due to a combination of changing climate, encroachment from the newly-evolved Smilodon (better known as the saber-toothed tiger), and yes, human beings. Sadly for Megatherium, these lumbering, delicious herbivores proved no match for bows and arrows.
All of this means that, by about 13,000 years ago, there were no remaining wild animals that ate the fruit of the avocado. Indeed, if human beings hadn’t discovered how delicious they were, the fruit would also have faded into lonely extinction; a sad reminder of an ecological system long-since gone.
Thankfully for the avocado – and for us! – the first Central Americans soon found themselves enjoying the weird, buttery green fruit, and the survival of the species was ensured. Evidently, the prospect of Mexican food without guacamole was just too much to bear.