Seeds dispersed in dung of insectivores and herbivores in semi-arid southern Africa

Milton S.J. ; Dean W.R.J. (2001)


We investigated the incidence of endozoochory in the semi-arid South African Karoo shrubland and Kalahari savanna by dissecting and germinating seed from dung samples from a wide range of wild mammals and domestic livestock. Intact seeds occurred at a mean density of 1575 seeds kg-1 in livestock air-dried dung and 3613 seeds kg-1 in air-dried dung of indigenous animals. Seedlings emerged from dung at an average density of 153 kg-1 air-dry dung. Seeds of Aizoaceae, Mesembryanthemaceae, Chenopodiaceae and Poaceae were abundant in the dung of wild and domestic herbivores as well as such ant- and termite-eating insectivores as aardvark (Orycteropus afer) and bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis). Seeds of fleshy-fruited shrubs occurred in dung of browsing herbivores and the bat-eared fox. Five non-indigenous weeds were found in the dung samples. Although the floras of the Kalahari and Karoo are considered to be largely wind and water-dispersed, endozoochory is a primary or secondary dispersal mechanism in many plant families and for many plant life-forms. Animals dispersed seeds of many species characteristic of fertile and disturbed habitats. In Mesembryanthemaceae, a family in which seeds are primarily dispersed very short distances by raindrops, endozoochory enables occasional long-distance dispersal. © 2001 Academic Press.

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