Just recently, biologists investigating the ecosystems of Panama's forest areas reached a rather amusing and interesting conclusion: although most human communities tend to exterminate them on account of their stealing food from wherever they can find it, rodents are in fact crucial for the survival of some tree species.
Thus, but for these small mammals, the black palm tree probably would not have made it till the 21st century.
As the researchers explain, in the past, this particular tree had its seeds carried around by mastodons and the like; however, when these species went extinct, the rodents stepped in to take their place and ensured the tree's survival throughout the years.
What is even more interesting is that these rodents – the agoutis – don't just steal from humans. Quite the contrary: they also steal from one another, which means that seeds get carried around over vast areas on land.
Recordings of these animals show them digging up seeds buried in one place by another representative of the same species and then hiding the stolen seed in some other remote place.
Eventually, this back and forth motion comes to an end, and the seed is allowed to develop into a brand new tree.
Newswise reports that one of the scientists who analyzed this small mammals behavior, explains that “We knew that these rodents would bury the seeds, but we had no idea that there would be this constant digging up of the seed, moving it and burying it, over and over again.”
Therefore, “As rodents steal the same seed many, many times, it adds up to a long-distance movement of the seed that one animal by itself could have never done.”
Given the fact that seed dispersal is crucial for the survival of most, if not all, plant species, it can be argued that these forest thieves are vital for the long-term survival of our remaining natural landscapes.
From where we stand, this research only goes to show just how well balanced our wild ecosystems are, and how going against one species because of personal and sometimes even egotistical reasons can lead to a series of events that might severely impact on the environment.