Tree Climbing Goats Help Argan Trees Disperse Seeds

Posted on May 27, 2017

Goats climbing an argan tree

Scientists say goats help argan trees disperse seeds. The goats love to climb up the trees and eat the olive-like fruit. The goats don't eat the seeds and spit them out. The spitted seeds can fall far enough away from the parent tree to enable new trees to grow.

The domesticated goats in southern Morocco will climb as high as 30 feet into the argan trees. Herders prune the trees to make it easier for the goats to climb. They also help goat kids learn to climb.

Miguel Delibes, Irene Castañeda, and José M Fedriani published a paper on the seed distribution via goat spitting in a paper published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The authors say, "This novel seed dispersal effect is a variation on the mechanism ecologists call endozoochory, in which seeds more commonly pass all the way through the animal's digestive system and out the other end (or sometimes through two digestive systems). The authors suspected that reports of goats dispersing argan seeds by this more common mechanism were mistaken, because goats do not usually poop large seeds."

The researchers also say some other plant species may benefit from animals spitting out their seeds. Animals such as sheep, red deer and fallow deer appear to help certain plants through the spitting variation on endozoochory.

Image: H Garrido/EBD-CSIC


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