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Frugivory and seed dispersal by carnivorous mammals, and associated fruit characteristics, in undisturbed Mediterranean habitatsFrugivory and seed dispersal by carnivorous mammals, and associated fruit characteristics, in undisturbed Mediterranean habitats

AuthorsHerrera, Carlos M.
Issue Date1989
PublisherNordic Ecological Society Oikos
CitationOikos 55: 250-262 Copenhagen 1988
AbstractThe role of carnivorous mammals (Order Carnivora) in seed dispersal has remained virtually unexplored, despite the well-known fact that these animals commonly ingest fleshy fruits and defecate their seeds. This paper presents data on the dispersal of seeds by carnivores in an extensive area of relatively undisturbed habitats in south­ eastern Spain, and is based on the examination of more than 1,500 carnivore feces collected over a 10-yr period. Seeds from 27 plant species, representing 40% of the fleshy-fruited plants occurring in the region, were recovered from carnivore feces. Carnivores actually disperse the seeds of the vast majority of eaten fruits, as only 0.89% of the seeds found were visibly damaged (broken or cracked). Fruits eaten by carnivores represent a nonrandom subset of the regional flora with regard to color, scent, persistence after ripening, size, seediness, relative pulp richness, chemical composition of the pulp (protein, fiber, minerals), and plant growth form. Carnivore eaten species are also dispersed by birds, thus displaying a dual seed dispersal system, while species not eaten by carnivores are entirely bird-dispersed. Consideration of mammalian carnivores seems essential for a complete understanding of seed dispersal processes in the broad assemblage of Mediterranean plants having mixed, bird­ mammal dispersal. Available evidence suggests that fruit features associated with carnivore consumption correspond to a “generalized mammalian syndrome”, and that carnivore dispersal represents the vanishing remnants of a more complex pre­ Holocene plant-mammal seed dispersal system.
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