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Carnivorous mammals track fruit abundance
Date:6/14/2010

ries widely from year to year. Periods without any fruit alternate with years of extremely abundant harvests with more than 50,000 fruits per tree. Despite these enormous year-on-year fluctuations, a study over an uninterrupted test series of 11 years into the significance of the rowan in the diet of the fox and marten compared with the environmental abundance of this resource showed that both factors harvest and consumption followed very similar patterns.

Monitoring of 20 trees

The same research team also carried out another study published in the same article, in which they monitored 20 rowan trees over 10 days and nights. They found that carnivores visited the 10 trees with the largest fruit production most often, picking up fallen fruit and helping to disperse the seeds.

"The probability of a tree being visited by a carnivore seemed to depend directly on the number of fruits that had fallen below it. The carnivores went off with a considerable proportion of the fallen fruit (much more than the amount destroyed by rodents during the same period)", says Guitin.

The carnivores also help the rowan to thrive by dispersing the seeds contained inside the fruits that fall from the tree.

According to the researchers, the rowan-fox-marten system could be important in mountain ecosystems on the Iberian Peninsula. In addition, the fruit falling under the mother plant may not necessarily represent a failure in terms of dispersal "since there could be a high likelihood of these seeds being mobilised by carnivores".


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