Navigation Links
Thieving rodents: Did they save tropical trees?
Date:7/17/2012

Big seeds produced by tropical trees such as black palms were probably once ingested and then left whole by huge mammals called gomphotheres.

Gomphotheres weighed more than a ton and dispersed the seeds over large distances.

But these Neotropical creatures disappeared more than 10,000 years ago. So why aren't large-seeded plants also extinct?

A paper published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) suggests that rodents may have taken over the seed-dispersal role of gomphotheres.

"The question has been: how did a tree like the black palm manage to survive for 10,000 years, if its seed-dispersers are extinct?" asks Roland Kays, co-author of the paper and a zoologist at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

"This research solves a long standing puzzle in ecology," says Alan Tessier, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

"How did plant species that seem to be dependent on Pleistocene megafauna for seed-dispersal survive the extinction of that megafauna?"

Now, says Kays, scientists may have an answer.

By attaching tiny radio transmitters to more than 400 seeds, Patrick Jansen, a scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and Wageningen University and colleagues found that 85 percent of the seeds were buried in caches by agoutis, common rodents in tropical lowlands.

Agoutis carry seeds around in their mouths and bury them for times when food is scarce.

Radio-tracking revealed a surprising finding: when the rodents dig up the seeds, they usually don't eat them, but instead move them to a new site and bury them, often many times.

One seed in the study was moved 36 times.

Researchers used remote cameras to catch the animals digging up cached seeds. They discovered that frequent seed movement primarily was caused by animals stealing seeds from one another.

Ultimately, 35 percent of the seeds ended up more than 100 meters from their origin. "Agoutis moved seeds at a scale that none of us had ever imagined," says Jansen.

"We had observed seeds being moved and buried up to five times, but in this system it seems that re-caching behavior is 'on steroids,'" says Ben Hirsch of STRI and Ohio State University.

"By radio-tagging the seeds, we were able to track them as they were moved by agoutis, find out if they were taken up into trees by squirrels, then discover the seeds inside spiny rat burrows.

"That allowed us to gain a much better understanding of how each rodent species affects seed dispersal and survival."

By taking over the role of Pleistocene mammals in dispersing large seeds, thieving, scatter-hoarding agoutis may have saved several species of trees from extinction.


'/>"/>

Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Have thieving rodents saved tropical trees?
2. Rodent robbers good for tropical trees
3. Native plant restoration not enough to maintain tropical dry forests in Hawaii
4. The absence of elephants and rhinoceroses reduces biodiversity in tropical forests
5. Palms reveal the significance of climate change for tropical biodiversity
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Thieving rodents: Did they save tropical trees?
(Date:10/4/2017)... Solutions, a global clinical research organization (CRO), announces the launch of ... 4, 2017. Shadow is designed to assist medical writers and biometrics ... the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in meeting the requirements for de-identifying ... ... ...
(Date:6/23/2017)... and ITHACA, N.Y. , ... and Cornell University, a leader in dairy research, today ... bioinformatics designed to help reduce the chances that the ... the onset of this dairy project, Cornell University has ... for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, a food safety ...
(Date:5/6/2017)... , May 5, 2017 ... just announced a new breakthrough in biometric authentication ... exploits quantum mechanical properties to perform biometric authentication. These ... smart semiconductor material created by Ram Group and ... finance, entertainment, transportation, supply chains and security. Ram ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... AMRI, a ... biotechnology industries to improve patient outcomes and quality of life, will now be ... are being attributed to new regulatory requirements for all new drug products, including ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... 2017 , ... At its national board meeting in North ... the co-founder, CEO and chief research scientist of Minnesota-based Advanced Space Technology and ... ARCS Alumni Hall of Fame . ASTER Labs is a technology development ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... ... a basic first aid supply for any work environment, but most personal eye wash can ... a dangerous substance enters both eyes? It’s one less decision, and likely quicker response time ... , “Whether its dirt and debris, or an acid or alkali, getting anything in your ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... Md. (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... digital pathology, announced today it will be hosting a Webinar titled, “Pathology is ... Advanced Pathology Associates , on digital pathology adoption best practices and how Proscia ...
Breaking Biology Technology: