PLANT ECOLOGY

Dabbling ducks disperse seeds

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Science  29 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6285, pp. 547-548
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6285.547-g

Dabbling ducks like this northern pintail, are important seed dispersers.

PHOTO: © MANJEET & YOGRAJ JADEJA / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Omnivorous dabbling ducks (Anas spp.) number in the millions worldwide, are highly mobile, and migrate long distances, which suggests that they may disperse seeds from a wide variety of plants. To find out, Soon et al. collated data on seeds ingested by seven species of dabbling ducks, recording more than 400 plant species. Surprisingly, more than half of the seeds came from plants that were not previously known to be animal-dispersed, and many grew in habitats other than the wetlands that dabblers normally prefer. The data suggest that in Europe alone, and depending on the season, dabbling ducks may disperse up to 5 billion seeds daily—many, many more than previously suspected.

J. Ecol. 104, 443 (2016).

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