Unbelievable ! Here is the first non-human mammal able to cultivate its food!
Researchers have recently discovered that humans are not the only mammals to practice agriculture. According to a new study, pocket gophers (Geomys pinetis) cultivate the land for food. Analyzes carried out on a field containing their burrows suggest that these creatures would not just eat the roots that grow in their tunnels.
It is true that the definition of agriculture remains a subject of scientific debate. However, researchers have found definite signs that ground squirrels act to promote root growth. Moreover, these long tunnels of several hundred meters would be modified, reworked and even fertilized.
Pocket gophers take care of their crops
Roots that have grown into sewer lines have presented a constant problem due to the pressure created on house sewer pipes. However, it inspired the ground squirrel research project. The study was to find out whether roots continued to invade the tunnels inhabited by these rodents. The team also wanted to know how they grew in the existing tunnels and in the new burrows.
Research has shown that these animals devoted time and energy to defending their crops. They maintained the burrows and provided a favorable environment for root development. When these have reached the burrows, the ground squirrel waste helped them grow. Researchers argue that it is a form of agriculture.
Since maintaining these underground networks would require a lot of energy, the researchers calculated the daily rate of root growth. This made it possible to know the energy needs of these rodents. According to the researchers, these roots provide 20 to 60% of daily caloric intake.
Pocket gophers are ecosystem engineers
Pocket waffles have only these roots to feed themselves. They generally do not interfere with human activities. According to the researchers, these creatures would be real “ecosystem engineers” that turn the soil and aerate it to return nutrients to the surface.
For some experts, farming means planting crops, helping them grow, and harvesting them. However, the team behind this research says this has not always been the case for human agriculture. For example, forest fruit tree crops were carefully managed, not planted. According to this apprehension, ground squirrels can be called farmers.