“Tree-climbing Goats Spit out and Disperse Valuable Argan Seeds”
by Elizabeth Preston
New Scientist, May 25, 2017
Argan trees are an important crop in Morocco, and tree-climbing goats help with the harvest. The goats perch in the branches and eat the fruits, then release the seeds, which are cracked open to get argan oil. Popular accounts, and some scientific papers, say the goats poop out the seeds. But goat herders say the goats spit the seeds. To resolve the mystery, researchers (who were skeptical goats could defecate such a large seed) fed fruits of various sizes to Spanish goats. They found that the goats spat out seeds of all kinds after regurgitating them in their cud. They also found that these seeds were still viable, which implies that ruminant animals in general might be important seed dispersers, spreading the seeds of the plants that they’ve eaten.
This paper was published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment this month, and I haven’t found any coverage of it. (Also, the pictures of goats in trees are delightful.) Let me know if it’s of interest!