Seed Scooper, Pooper

From Science:Seed

Massive grasshoppers called wetas once hopped throughout New Zealand. Now threatened or endangered in most of that country, their scarcity could spell trouble for some of their food sources. Researchers have found that these omnivorous insects sometimes munch on fruits, passing seeds through their guts unharmed. This behavior is essential to the well-being of plants, as the journey through the gut seems to be a rite of passage necessary for some seeds to germinate, says Kevin Burns, an ecologist at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Insects are not known for eating fruits and dispersing undigested seeds. But because New Zealand originally lacked rats, which can spread seeds, Burns and his Victoria University colleagues Catherine Duthie, a graduate student, and George Gibbs wondered if the mouse-sized wetas had taken over the seed-dispersal job often held by these furry species. That role would make sense, as wetas are known as “invertebrate mice” because of their size and nocturnal habitats, Burns points out.

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