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Are gastropods, rather than ants, important dispersers of seeds of myrmecochorous forest herbs?

  • Seed dispersal by ants (myrmecochory) is widespread, and seed adaptations to myrmecochory are common, especially in the form of fatty appendices (elaiosomes). In a recent study, slugs were identified as seed dispersers of myrmecochores in a central European beech forest. Here we used 105 beech forest sites to test whether myrmecochore presence and abundance is related to ant or gastropod abundance and whether experimentally exposed seeds are removed by gastropods. Myrmecochorous plant cover was positively related to gastropod abundance but was negatively related to ant abundance. Gastropods were responsible for most seed removal and elaiosome damage, whereas insects (and rodents) played minor roles. These gastropod effects on seeds were independent of region or forest management. We suggest that terrestrial gastropods can generally act as seed dispersers of myrmecochorous plants and even substitute myrmecochory, especially where ants are absent or uncommon.

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Author:Manfred Türke, Kerstin Andreas, Martin M. Gossner, Esther Kowalski, Markus Lange, Steffen Boch, Stephanie A. Socher, Jörg Müller, Daniel Prati, Markus Fischer, Rainer Meyhöfer, Wolfgang W. Weisser
ISSN:0003-0147 (print)
Parent Title (English):The American naturalist : a bi-monthly journal devoted to the advancement and correlation of the biological sciences
Publisher:Univ. of Chicago Press
Place of publication:Chicago
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2012
Year of Completion:2012
Release Date:2017/03/26
Tag:Arion; gastropodochory; myrmecochory; seed dispersal; slug
First Page:124
Last Page:131
Funder:DFG [1374, WE 3018/9-1, FI 1246/6-1]; Biodiversity Exploratories project
Organizational units:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Biochemie und Biologie
Peer Review:Referiert