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The vegetable lamb is a plant that has a sheep for fruit. These sheep are quite similar to natural sheep, with legs, guts, and wool in the same anatomy as a sheep, and are attached to the rest of the plant through the umbilicus. The sheep are capable of movement and digestion similarly to a regular sheep

What seed-dispersal method would such a plant be likely to use?

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    $\begingroup$ Pretty sure someone already asked this $\endgroup$
    – User 89947
    Sep 17, 2021 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ Could you first explain how having sheep for fruit might benefit a plant? $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2021 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ @RobbieGoodwin I don't think he really needs to? personally I just went with the assumption that it wasn't the plants idea & some mad scientist just thought it would be fun :) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 21, 2021 at 7:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore Thanks and in that case, what would be your mad scientist's explanation? $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2021 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @RobbieGoodwin What's in it for the plant? well as per my answer I'd splice it into the plants lifecycle so it has to produce sheep if it wants any seeds to grow more of it, likewise the sheep would only produce its seeds not other sheep, as for why the mad scientist thinks it's a good idea? mad remember, doesn't need a reason other than because I want to :) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 21, 2021 at 20:57

4 Answers 4

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What seed-dispersal method would such a plant be likely to use?

For the sheep-fruit? none.

The umbilical will simply snap & the 'sheep' drop off the plant right there & walk away.

For it's seeds to propagate itself? the sheep-fruits' legs, they 'are' the dispersal method.

The sheep-fruit would just wander off grazing as sheep are wont to do.

Seeds of the plant are grown in the sheep-fruit & deposited with its dung as it wanders & grazes.

It's likely the sheep-fruit don't propagate 'themselves' directly but only indirectly through propagation of the plant species they fruited from, they'll be part of the life cycle of the plant & vice-versa, they will be it's seed dispersal method, the seeds grow in the sheep-fruits womb-analogue & are 'birthed' as it poops to insure a little parcel of fertiliser for the seeds, all the sheep-fruit will be ewes, there will be no rams, if the sheep fruit aren't integral to the plants actual means of propagation & seed dispersal then however they came to be (genetic engineering?) they're just dead weight evolutionarily speaking that will be heavily selected against & eventually disappear without constant intervention.

To keep them looking like ordinary sheep constant intervention by selective breeding will probably be required, harvesting (culling?) of immature sheep-fruit with any variation from the norm while still on the vine or otherwise immature (unripe?), before they're reproductively mature, is probably needed.

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  • $\begingroup$ Since sheep-fruit wouldn't have to carry any actual fetus, they wouldn't have wombs. They'd deposit their seed into the digestive tract to mix with the fertilizer... or perhaps somewhere near the rear end to allow semination without fertilizer if the soil is rich enough already. $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2021 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDvorak They have to grow the seeds somewhere & I worked from the principle (or assumption) they were created by some form of genetic engineering & spliced into the plants life cycle, ergo easier by far to use a sheep's existing reproductive structures (saves work on the gene tech end) & subvert them to produce seeds than anything else, thus females seemed mandated to me, easier to adjust an egg than a sperm to clone the stored plant DNA parthenogenesis style (as that already exists in nature so there are mechanisms we can subvert) I figured, was thinking in part of the aphid lifecycle :) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 18, 2021 at 10:20
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Dandelion or thistle style aerial dispersion with wool as the sail. Seeds will grow on the skin of the sheep fruit like they do on a strawberry with some of the wool of the sheep growing out of the seeds. When the seeds mature the connective tissue between the seed and the skin weakens and the seeds are pulled off into the wind and go wherever it takes them. This method is haphazard and a lot of seed that will never find fertile ground but it does work. Since a single sheep has a lot of surface area for seed production compared to a dandelion the numbers are definitely going to be in the plants' favour.

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    $\begingroup$ That could work, seems like an unnecessary addition when it's already got legs to wander around on but is nicely tied into the fluffy fleece element of it being a sheep. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 17, 2021 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore I figured that if the plant released any of it's sheepfruit then not only is it letting go of a lot of embodied material and energy but also a noticeable percentage of it's feeding capability. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Sep 19, 2021 at 4:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore I think the initial observation and response are worth keeping but otherwise yeah. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Oct 2, 2021 at 5:12
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@Pelinore suggests all sheep-fruits are ewes, but there's another answer:

All the sheep-fruits are rams.

Strong, good looking rams. Once mature, they wander off into the world in search for willing ewes. (Coincidentally, the reproductive cycle of the sheep plant is synch with that of the sheep.) If an ewe is charmed and mates with a sheep-fruit, the "offspring" growing in her will not be an ordinary lamb, but a lamb-sized seed.

The large seeds offer a great advantage to the plants, as all the energy supplied by the mother ewe lets the tree sprout in environments where other plants have a very hard time surviving.

The evolutinary path that led to the sheep-fruit plant is somewhat unclear, but the currently most widely accepted hypothesis is that the seeds of it's ancestors were similar to those of the burdock, and would spread by sticking to passing animals.

I'd like to think the seeds are born peacefully with no lasting harm done to its mother, except the confusion and possible emotional scars, but you could adjust this to whatever level of macabre you prefer.

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Sheep are fruit, dragons are your dispersal method.

the sheep keep the area around the plant clear of competition while they develop, eating every other plant within reach. They act as fruit when predators kill and eat the sheep. the sheep will have to have seeds dispersed throughout its body, which will be deposited in predator dung. Your problem is the dispersal will be much more effective if the umbilical simply withers and the sheep runs away as Pelinore suggests.

How other fantasy creature can make this work better.

This works a lot better if there are flying predators large enough to eat the sheep in a single bite (dragons, wyvern, griffin, ect), in which case the sheep contains only one or two very large seed which gets dropped in the predator dung, but since it is a flying predator it will have a large range and this the seed gets dropped a long distance away. This works even better in areas with lots of islands or mountains where the sheep physically walking will not be able to travel too far. You might even have predators that evolve to feed mostly on the vegetable sheep and thus will need a huge range to find enough of them, since they can't grow new sheep very fast.

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