Guts, Germination, and Seeds

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Science  05 Jul 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5578, pp. 15
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5578.15b

Many plant species take advantage of the mobility of animals for the dispersal of pollen and seeds. A common form of seed dispersal is endozoochory, whereby animals ingest seeds and fruits and then pass the seeds in their feces; the seeds of some plants actually require passage through an animal gut in order to germinate. Pakeman et al. quantify this phenomenon in an ecological context by recording seed dispersal by rabbits and sheep in a variety of grazed habitats in Scotland, and by germinating seed from dung collected during the summer months. The seeds of almost 40% of the plant species recorded in these habitats were able to germinate successfully after passing through rabbits or sheep—a substantially higher proportion than previously thought. Regardless of habitat type, species with smaller seeds and those capable of persisting in a soil seedbank tended to predominate. — AMS

Funct. Ecol.16, 296 (2002).

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