Tree Climbing Goats Are Benefiting Trees In An Unusual Way

Posted: Jun 1 2017, 3:49pm CDT | by , Updated: Jun 1 2017, 3:51pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Tree Climbing Goats are Benefiting Trees in an Unusual Way
Credit: H Garrido/EBD-CSIC

Tree goats are spitting out seeds and spreading them to other locatios where a new plant can grow

It may sound unreal, but Morocco is known for having tree-climbing goats. The goats found in country’s southwestern region can climb high onto the Argan trees to eat fresh fruits, which are otherwise far apart and sparse in the dry, semi-desert region.

Argan trees can grow up to 33 feet tall and the quirky little goats have no problem climbing that height. These trees produce a fruit that contains a thick peel and a bitter fleshy pulp. And that pulp is what the tree goats like to eat. The goats eat the fruit whole and in return give us a precious thing: the seed of Argan fruit. These seeds are crushed by people to produce Argan oil, which is used for making expensive cosmetics and food.

It has been long assumed that nuts of Argan fruits are retrieved from the goats’ droppings. Tree goats eat the pulp while the nuts pass all the way through the animal’s digestive system and drops onto the ground. However, a team of Spanish researchers have observed something more unusual. They found that once the goats have eaten the fruit they spit out the seeds later.

“Some scientists have accepted the defecation hypothesis, probably because they did not speak to the herders.” Miguel Delibes, a biologist from Spain told New Scientist.

Goats do not usually defecate large seeds, adding weight to the theory that these 2 centimeters long seeds are being released by spitting.

Tree-climbing goats may also be benefiting the trees in that way. When goats spit out the argan nuts, they disperse clean seeds wherever they wander and provide new plants a chance to survive.

Researchers have observed cows, sheep and some types of deer spitting seeds while re-chewing food coming from their stomach and suspect this spitting technique may actually be common - and perhaps an important way of spreading seeds to other locations where a new plant can grow.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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