This animal is proof that humans are not the only mammal to grow their food
Pocket gophers (Geomys pinetis), small rodents with underground habits originating from the American continent, do so too.
You can learn a lot from animals simply by looking at them. But some secrets can only be revealed through scientific research, especially when it comes to species that are difficult to observe. This is the case of the Edomites, a family of rodents originating from the American continent to which they belong pocket gophers (Geomys pinetis), a solitary species with underground habits, which inhabits the sandy soils of the Southeastern region of the United States (Alabama, Georgia, and Florida). This small rodent, whose presence is evident due to the numerous mounds of soil it pushes to the surface as it digs complex systems of underground tunnels, feeds on roots which, unlike what has been hypothesized up to now, are not only simply those encountered along the way.
Pocket gophers “cultivate” the roots that grow inside their tunnels, which makes these small rodents the first non-human mammal to practice any form of agriculture. To prove it, in a series of measurements in a field published in Current Biologywere researchers Veronica Selden and Francis Putz of the University of Florida in Gainesville, who calculate how rodents can get 20 to 60 percent of their daily caloric needs from these roots.
“Pocket gophers are the first non-human farming mammals – said the biologist Francis Putz -. Agriculture is known among species of ants, beetles, and termites, but not other mammals”.
There has been a lot of debate about what is meant by “cultivating”, but scholars have suggested that it all depends on what we mean by agriculture. “If we think agriculture requires crops to be planted, then rodents would be excluded – Putz added -. However, such a definition is too narrow for anyone with a more horticultural perspective, where crops are carefully managed, as is the case with fruit trees that are not necessarily planted. In this perspective, the origins of agriculture included the annual cultivation of Mesopotamian grains and legumes, as well as the cultivation of corn in the Americas, but many cultures around the world have developed agriculture based on perennial crops, many of which were not planted. but with which we were concerned”.
Selden and Putz showed that pocket gophers don’t just eat roots that grow in tunnels but provide conditions that encourage root growth. spreading their droppings as fertilizer. Consequently, the authors argue that by promoting root growth in their tunnels and feeding on these roots, pocket gophers have a food production system that can be qualified as agriculture. This process could explain why these rodents maintain and defend their complex tunnel systems. “The tunnels are comparable to rows of crops. And if what they’re doing counts as agriculture, then these rodents are the first non-human mammals to qualify as farmers.”.