Dispersal of salt marsh seeds on the feet and feathers of waterfowl
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Dispersal of seeds by adhesion to animals, known as epizoochory, is often referred to as a significant mode of dispersal. Few studies have quantitatively examined this method of dispersal; those that do often concentrate on mammalian rather than avian dispersers. To measure the extent of this form of seed dispersal, we studied the external seed loads on the feet and feathers of four waterfowl species found in a salt marsh on the New Jersey shore. More than 75% of the birds were found to be carrying seeds, mostly on their feathers. The seeds of twelve plant species, predominantly from salt marsh plants and particularly salt grass (Distichlis spicata) and cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), were identified in the samples. All but one species has seeds with potentially adhesive structures. Results indicate that for many salt marsh plant species, seed dispersal by adhesion to waterfowl may be a significant method of seed transport.
Key Wordsadhesive seed dispersal epizoochory salt marsh waterfowls
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