MAY 26, 2017 6:16 AM PDT

Tree-Climbing Moroccan Goats Disperse Tree Seeds by Spitting

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

While exploring the wilderness in Morocco, you might experience things you wouldn’t expect, such as goats jumping into trees and perching themselves in the branches like a bird would.

While researchers have known about their unique tree-climbing abilities for some time, most average people do not. Of course, that’s not the only kind of behavior that researchers studying the creatures took notice of at the time.

Meet the curious Moroccan goats that climb trees.

Image Credit: H Garrido/EBD-CSIC

According to a report published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the goats appear to enjoy grazing the treetops in particularly arid times of the year when rainfall, which is already scarce, is at its scarcest.

More importantly, they may be dispersing seeds of the thorny Argan trees they’re climbing as they munch on fruits they discover on various branches and regurgitate the larger seeds.

Related: This fearless goat mingles with ferocious tigers and lives to tell the tale

Since Morocco gets very little rainfall, the fruit offer a decent source of food and water for the goats. Mutually benefiting mother nature, their liking for climbing high and foraging the branches for tasty treats appears to be a mechanism for facilitating the trees’ multiplication throughout the region.

Moroccan goats are seen climbing trees in this YouTube video.

More importantly, the idea that the Argan tree seeds are collected from goat feces seems to be a myth as well. They’re particularly large seeds at almost an inch long, and as such, the likelihood that they’re passing through the goat’s digestive system doesn’t seem as likely as them being spat out before they swallow.

To find out for sure, the researchers fed goats five different types of fruits and watched as the goats spat out the seeds. The behavior was more common when the seeds were large rather than small, and more importantly, up to 70% of the spat seeds could still sprout.

Although the regurgitated seeds can sometimes come in contact with feces on the ground, this may have led to the initial confusion, however the study proved some basis for how the original theory wasn’t the case and provided evidence for regurgitated seeds rather than defecated seeds.

Related: How goats are used to prevent wildfires

For now, however, it definitely appears to be a great example of how life in certain ecosystems depend on one another: the goats depend on the trees for food, and the trees depend on the goats for dispersal. It’s certainly interesting to learn how these things work out; wouldn’t you agree?

Source: Live Science

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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