The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: What animals in nature actively practice agriculture?  (Read 1614 times)

CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6208
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Humans have been unique in that we specifically plant seeds for plants that we wish to reproduce.  We wait for them to grow to maturity, then harvest the products and plant again.

How common are such specific agricultural practices in Nature?

We can ignore seed cycles that pass through excrement which isn't an intentional process.

I can think of bees as specifically harvesting only the sugars from flowers.  Selecting the flowers that they like.  Pollinating the flowers in the process, and storing the sugars for a "rainy day".  In a sense a very complex task for such a small bug.

Squirrels seem to have a propensity to plant seeds, but that may be more of an accident than any deliberate process.

Others?

RD

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 7124
    • View Profile
What animals in nature actively practice agriculture?
« Reply #1 on: 19/06/2011 22:45:25 »
« Last Edit: 19/06/2011 23:09:51 by RD »

Geezer

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8416
  • "Vive la résistance!"
    • View Profile

CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6208
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
What animals in nature actively practice agriculture?
« Reply #3 on: 20/06/2011 09:20:38 »
Interesting.
Thanks for the notes.
So humans aren't alone in farming, and there are many animals that aren't just opportunistic in food gathering.

Here are some notes on fungus farming snails.

http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/2003/12/farming-on-a-snails-scale-2/

And more notes on fungus farming (all ideas from Geezer's article, but also related to the ants above).

The practice of cultivating fungi as a primary food source has evolved multiple times: in leaf-cutting ants, in termites, and in several groups of beetles. In many cases, these fungus-farming insects have a major influence on the structure and function of their native terrestrial ecosystems.
Fungus farming has now been found in a very different organism--one that lives in a semi-aquatic realm. Silliman and Newell surveyed the feeding habits of the marine snail Littoraria irrorata in salt marshes on the Atlantic cost of North America. The snails graze on saltmarsh cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora, opening wounds that are colonized by ascomycete fungi on which the snails feed. The facilitation of fungus colonization by the snails significantly depresses cordgrass growth, disproportionately beyond the physical damage inflicted by the snails. This phenomenon is widespread in salt marshes along the Atlantic coast, and the authors speculate that similar fungus-farming relationships may be as yet undiscovered in marine habitats. -- AMS

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 100, 15643 (2003)

So..
Now I should ask if Monkeys, Lemurs, Gorillas, or Apes do any "farming".

 

SMF 2.0 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines