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Fern and bryophyte endozoochory by slugs

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Endozoochory plays a prominent role for the dispersal of seed plants, and dispersal vectors are well known. However, for taxa such as ferns and bryophytes, endozoochory has only been suggested anecdotally but never tested in controlled experiments. We fed fertile leaflets of three ferns and capsules of four bryophyte species to three slug species. We found that, overall, spores germinated from slug feces in 57.3 % of all 89 fern and in 51.3 % of all 117 bryophyte samples, showing that the spores survived gut passage of slugs. Moreover, the number of samples within which spores successfully germinated did not differ among plant species but varied strongly among slug species. This opens new ecological perspectives suggesting that fern and bryophyte endozoochory by gastropods is a so-far-overlooked mode of dispersal, which might increase local population sizes of these taxa by spore deposition on suitable substrates.

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We thank A. Bergamini for the identification of Bryum pallescens, S. Braybrook, K. Esfeld, and T. Imhof for assistance in the laboratory, A. Gygax for preparing Fig. 1, and E. Allan for revising the English.

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Correspondence to Steffen Boch.

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Communicated by Andreas Prinzing.

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Boch, S., Berlinger, M., Fischer, M. et al. Fern and bryophyte endozoochory by slugs. Oecologia 172, 817–822 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-012-2536-0

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  • Dispersal
  • Gastropoda
  • Herbivory
  • Mutualism
  • Spore germination