Brazil Nuts

Seed dispersal & the agouti


Brazil nuts are found inside “cocos” - thick hard coconut-like pods, which are “tough nuts to crack” and don't break open from the long fall from these tall trees (see video below).

The agouti, a large rodent, uses it's incredibly tough jaws and chisel-sharp front teeth to gnaw open the hard outer pod encasing the seeds.

Then the agouti can get to the individual seeds and open their hard shells to get to the nuts or “seeds”. They may use the "micropyle", a small hole at one end of the Brazil nut shell, to pry it open.

They eat several nuts and also hide some for later ~ these are sometimes forgotten and go on to become new trees. Thus, the agouti plays an essential part in seed dispersal and regeneration in the Brazil nut tree's lifecyle.

About the Agouti


The agouti are large rodent species of the genus Dasyprocta. They are related to guinea pigs and look quite similar, but with longer legs. They have a short hairless tail. Agoutis may grow to be up to 60 cm in length and 4 kg in weight.

When feeding, agoutis sit on their hind legs and hold food between their forepaws. They eat fallen fruit, leaves and roots although they may sometimes climb trees to eat green fruit. They will hoard food in small buried stores.

Agoutis give birth to litters of two to four young after a gestation period of three months. Young are born into burrows lined with leaves, roots and hair. They are well developed at birth and may be up and eating within an hour. They can live for as long as twenty years, a remarkably long time for a rodent.

They are regarded as the only species that can open Brazil nuts without tools, mainly thanks to their strength and exceptionally sharp teeth.