Sowing Seed Far and Near

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Science  09 Mar 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5817, pp. 1341
DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5817.1341a

Although a great deal is known about the qualitative aspects of seed dispersal by animals (for example, which species feed on particular plants and disperse their seeds), the quantitative study of seed dispersal is still in its infancy. For example, the relative roles of different animal species in dispersing seeds over different distances are unclear. Genotyping techniques, coupled with detailed field observations, are beginning to yield results. Jordano et al. assessed the relative contributions of large birds, small birds, and fruit-eating mammals to the dispersal of seeds of Prunus mahaleb, a common fleshy-fruited tree in southern Spain, by genotyping seeds in fecal pellets and matching them to genotypes of parent trees. Although dispersal distance correlated fairly well with increasing size of animal, only a small subset of larger species made significant contributions to longer-distance dispersal over several hundred meters. Loss of these critical species or fragmentation of habitat could thus have disproportionate effects on plant dispersal and gene flow. — AMS

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104, 3278 (2007).

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