Tree-Climbing, Seed-Spitting Goats Help Trees Grow in New Places

We’ve never seen symbiosis quite like this before. Scientists say goats’ Huck Finn-like propensity for climbing trees and spitting may actually benefit the trees they visit. The researchers published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

These animals will do just about anything to fulfill a craving. When there’s nothing available at ground level, domesticated Moroccan goats (Capra hircus) gladly clamber 30 feet into the uppermost branches of an argan tree (Argania spinosa) to get at its pulpy fruit.

Daniel*D, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Rather than shouting at their goats to get down, herders encourage this wacky behavior, carrying goat kids to lower branches and teaching them how to climb. In the dry months of autumn, a herd may spend up to 74 percent of its foraging time in the treetops.

Dromedar61, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The argan tree has long been important in its native region as a source of wood and a barrier against the Sahara’s creeping sands. Over the last few decades it’s also become something of a money-spinner, as more and more beauty products incorporate the honey-colored oil from its seeds.

That’s just fine with the goats. More trees mean more fruit for them, and it’s not the hard, stone-like seeds that they’re after. Researchers wondered how this highly unusual arrangement worked out for the trees. Many tree species depend on animals to disperse their seeds. It’s a trade: The animal gets to eat fruit, so long as it travels a little distance away before digesting it and pooping out the seeds.

But argan seeds are on the larger side, and researchers didn’t think goats would particularly enjoy trying to poop them out. To get a closer look, they fed domesticated goats six types of fruit. Then things got extra-glamorous, as they watched and waited for the goats to extrude the seeds.

And extrude they did—just not from the end you might expect. Rather than digesting and passing the whole fruit, the goats chewed it, swallowed it, digested it partially, then regurgitated it, chewed it again, and spit out the seeds.

The researchers collected those seeds and planted them, with great success. The majority of seeds had survived their harrowing journey through the front end of a goat and began to sprout.

This dispersal-via-spitting represents a previously unknown tree reproduction strategy. Goats are far from the only animals that chew their cud or spit it back out. This could be big.

“If spitting viable seeds from the cud is widespread among ruminants,” the authors note, “its ecological relevance could be important.”

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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The 10 Best Shark Movies of All Time, According to Rotten Tomatoes

MCA/Universal Home Video
MCA/Universal Home Video

If the ongoing popularity of shark films has taught us anything, it’s that we simply can’t spend enough screen time with these predators, who can famously ruin a beach day with one swift gnash of their teeth. And even if shark attacks are far less common than Hollywood would have us believe, it’s still entertaining to watch a great white stalk an unsuspecting fictional swimmer—or, in the case of 2013’s Sharknado, whirl through the air in a terrifying cyclone.

To celebrate Shark Week this week, Rotten Tomatoes has compiled a list of the best shark movies of all time, ranked by aggregated critics' score. Unsurprisingly topping the list is Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic Jaws, which quite possibly ignited our societal fixation on great white sharks. The second-place finisher was 2012’s Kon-Tiki, based on the true story of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s harrowing voyage across the Pacific Ocean on a wooden raft in 1947.

If you did happen to write off Sharknado as too kitschy to be worth the watch, you might want to reconsider—it ranks sixth on the list, with a score of 78 percent, and its 2014 sequel sits in ninth place, with 61 percent. The list doesn’t only comprise dramatized shark attacks. In seventh place is Jean-Michel Cousteau’s 2005 documentary Sharks 3D, a fascinating foray into the real world of great whites, hammerheads, and more.

But for every critically acclaimed shark flick, there’s another that flopped spectacularly. After you’ve perused the highest-rated shark films below, check out the worst ones on Rotten Tomatoes’ full list here.

  1. Jaws (1975) // 98 percent
  1. Kon-Tiki (2012) // 81 percent
  1. The Reef (2010) // 80 percent
  1. Sharkwater (2007) // 79 percent
  1. The Shallows (2016) // 78 percent
  1. Sharknado (2013) // 78 percent
  1. Sharks 3D (2004) // 75 percent
  1. Open Water (2004) // 71 percent
  1. Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) // 61 percent
  1. Jaws 2 (1978) // 60 percent

[h/t Rotten Tomatoes]