Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fish help spread forest seeds

How can this be? Fish plant a tree? Very strange. In Brazil's Pantanal forest, a fish helps a palm tree populate the forest by spreading seeds.

During the floods that are common in this area, pacu (the seed-eating fish) move out of rivers and into the forest, eating the fruit of the tucum palm and spreading the seeds in fish poo after swimming around and digesting the fruit. Local fishermen know to bait their hooks with fruit to catch the pacu. Sadly, the pacu appear to be in decline from overfishing, threatening the forest as well as the fish.

Scientists think the role of fish in forests may be bigger than realized. We only learned a few decades ago that forests get fertilized by the bodies of salmon that die after spawning. What other fish mysteries are hidden in plain view.

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