Sweet, not protein, in bamboo fruits triggers rat boom

Source: The post is based on the article “Sweet, not protein, in bamboo fruits triggers rat boom” published in The Hindu on 19th November 2022

What is the News?

A study was conducted on Melocanna baccifera, a tropical bamboo species that has long fascinated researchers for its association with the occurrence of ‘bamboo death’ ‘rat floods’ and famines in northeast India.

What is Melocanna baccifera?

Melocanna baccifera is one of two bamboo species belonging to the Melocanna genus.It is also called ‘Muli’ in northeast India.

It is the largest fruit-producing bamboo and is native to the northeast India-Myanmar region.

It flowers almost fully synchronically every 48 years.This flowering results in the phenomenon known as Mautam.

How is Melocanna baccifera associated with famines in northeast India?

During its gregarious flowering, the Melocanna baccifera produces large fruits which draw animal visitors/predators. Of these, black rats greatly relish the fleshy, berry-like fruit. During this period, they also multiply rapidly, a phenomenon dubbed as ‘rat flood.’ 

Once the fruits are gone, they start devouring standing crops, causing famines that have claimed thousands of human lives.

Why do rats get attracted to the fruits produced by Melocanna baccifera?

Earlier, it was presumed that ‘high protein in fruits/seeds’ was attracting the rats.

However, a study in 2016 has found that the fruit actually contains very little protein.The predation is mainly due to the high content of sugar.

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