The thieving habits of rodents have emerged as a key mechanism for seed dispersal in tropical forests
The thieving habits of rodents have emerged as an unlikely salvation of tropical forests, research suggests.
Massive mammals known as gomphotheres once ranged the Americas, distributing big tree seeds as they roamed.
But they are extinct, and it has not been clear what is spreading seeds now.
In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists report using radio tags to show that rodents take and bury seeds, stealing from each other, spreading them far and wide.
One of the seeds passed through the paws of 36 agoutis - half-metre-long rodents common in the forests of Central and South America.
Dispersal of seeds is crucial to the survival of trees such as the Astrocaryum standleyanum palms involved in this study.
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