These mammals also grow their food

They are identifiable by the mounds of sandy earth that dot a field: gophers, small rodents, cultivate the land under our feet constantly reshaping it. These rodents happen to be the only mammals besides humans that practice agriculture!

we are not the only ones mammals to practice agriculture. This has just been shown by a study in the magazine current biologythat focused on small rodents : pocket waffles. Populating certain fields in North America, they spend their lives in underground galleries excavated by them, which can exceed 100 meters in length. But above all, they only feed on roots, which grow in these tunnels, and which they then cultivate. “They provide this perfect environment for the roots to grow and fertilize them with their waste,” said Veronica Selden, first author of the study and a recent University of Florida graduate in zoology.

To demonstrate these farming practices, the two lead authors spent months observing these small rodents and trying to keep them out of their tunnels to measure the roots growing there. But in vain! They always slipped away, no matter what obstacles were thrown at them. The two researchers then agreed to drive a huge shaft into the ground with the ends cut off, to block the waffles’ path and allow them to grow. the roots.

This little pocket squirrel is scooping up dirt from his ongoing dig. Digging consumes so much energy that the roots it finds along the way do not provide enough food. But by harvesting tubers over time, he gets enough energy to keep digging. © Veronica Selden, Jack Putz

It’s all about definition

And they saw a flourishing growth of roots. By feeding the soil with natural fertilizer, these little rodents they may or may not be considered farmers. It’s all a matter of definition. “Sowing culture, for some people, is what constitutes agriculturePutz said. However, many other animals, as well as different human cultures, use horticultural techniques to tend crops that they do not plant themselves. I think the whole question is intellectually exciting because it’s not really settled. »

Future reading ideas for summer?

To celebrate the start of the holidays, we offer you the Mag Futura at the preferential price of €15 instead of €19, that is, a 20% discount !

What is Future Mag?

  • Our first paper magazine with more than 200 pages to make science accessible to as many people as possible
  • 4 big scientific questions by 2022, from the Earth to the Moon
  • Home delivery*

*Special offer valid until July 19. Delivery takes place in France (except metropolitan France), Switzerland, Belgium.

Are you interested in what you just read?

Leave a Comment