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Special delivery: scavengers direct seed dispersal towards ungulate carcasses


Steyaert, SMJG and Frank, SC and Puliti, S and Badia, R and Arnberg, MP and Beardsley, J and Okelsrud, A and Blaalid, R, Special delivery: scavengers direct seed dispersal towards ungulate carcasses, Biology Letters, 14, (8) Article 20180388. ISSN 1744-9561 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2018 The Author(s)

DOI: doi:10.1098/rsbl.2018.0388


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 Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:carrion ecology; directed seed dispersal; Empetrum nigrum; endozoochory; Rangifer tarandus; scavengers
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Ecology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences
UTAS Author:Beardsley, J (Mr Jack Beardsley)
ID Code:152132
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:10
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2022-08-11
Last Modified:2022-09-16

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