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Special delivery: scavengers direct seed dispersal towards ungulate carcasses

Steyaert, SMJG, Frank, SC, Puliti, S, Badia, R, Arnberg, MP, Beardsley, J, Okelsrud, A and Blaalid, R 2018 , 'Special delivery: scavengers direct seed dispersal towards ungulate carcasses' , Biology Letters, vol. 14, no. 8 , pp. 1-4 , doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0388.

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Abstract

Cadaver decomposition islands around animal carcasses can facilitate establishment of various plant life. Facultative scavengers have great potential for endozoochory, and often aggregate around carcasses. Hence, they may disperse plant seeds that they ingest across the landscape towards cadaver decomposition islands. Here, we demonstrate this novel mechanism along a gradient of wild tundra reindeer carcasses. First, we show that the spatial distribution of scavenger faeces (birds and foxes) was concentrated around carcasses. Second, faeces of the predominant scavengers (corvids) commonly contained viable seeds of crowberry, a keystone species of the alpine tundra with predominantly vegetative reproduction. We suggest that cadaver decomposition islands function as endpoints for directed endozoochory by scavengers. Such a mechanism could be especially beneficial for species that rely on small-scale disturbances in soil and vegetation, such as several Nordic berry-producing species with cryptic generative reproduction.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Steyaert, SMJG and Frank, SC and Puliti, S and Badia, R and Arnberg, MP and Beardsley, J and Okelsrud, A and Blaalid, R
Keywords: carrion ecology; directed seed dispersal; Empetrum nigrum; endozoochory; Rangifer tarandus; scavengers
Journal or Publication Title: Biology Letters
Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing
ISSN: 1744-9561
DOI / ID Number: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0388
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2018 The Author(s)

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