Epizoochory in a hedgerow habitat: seasonal variation and selective diaspore adhesion

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Hernández, A., Zaldívar, P. (2013) - Epizoochory in a hedgerow habitat: seasonal variation and selective diaspore adhesion - Ecological Research

Epizoochory has been less studied than other
seed dispersal mechanisms, such as endozoochory, and
generally only a small percentage of plant species show
adaptations to this strategy. Nevertheless, epizoochorous
seed dispersal can affect an appreciable number of herb
species in forests and man-made habitats. Also, few
studies have dealt with temporal variation in epizoochory.
In this paper, medium-long distance epizoochory is analyzed
in a hedgerow habitat for the first time, using a
domestic dog in an area in northwest Spain. Special
attention is paid to seasonal variation and differential
traits of plant taxa involved. Approximately 30 % of
available herb taxa were found attached to hair. The intermonthly
difference in the frequency of the taxa involved
in epizoochory was significant, and the overall peak was
reached in June–October linked with diaspore ripening
phenology. Ninety-three percent of the plant taxa adhered
to hair had diaspores with traits facilitating epizoochory
(hooks, spines, awns, rigid hairs), in comparison with
17 %for available plant taxa not adhered to hair. The taxa
involved in epizoochory had larger diaspores than the rest
of the available taxa, but ranged considerably in size.
Numerous hooks covered the largest, heaviest diaspores,
and allowed them to attach to hair. There was no significant
difference in mean plant height between taxa involved
in epizoochory and the rest of the available taxa. The
difference in life span between taxa involved in epizoochory
and the rest of available taxa was not significant, most
of them being perennials in both cases. Seventy-three
percent of all the available plant taxa were potential forest
plants typically found in edges and gaps, and 64 %of the
plant taxa involved in epizoochory were these kinds of
potential forest plants. High or medium involuntary positive
selection by the dog of diaspores of Taraxacum gr.
officinale, Galium aparine, Geum urbanum, and Agrimonia
eupatoria was observed. In conclusion, epizoochorous
dispersal can be quantitatively and functionally important
in hedgerow habitats during summer-autumn, affecting
mainly herb taxa with specialized diaspores.


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