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Epizoochorous dispersal by ungulates depends on fur, grooming and social interactions

Abstract : The transport phase of the animal-mediated plant dispersal process is critical to dispersal effectiveness as it determines the spatial distribution of the diaspores released and their chance for further recruitment. Assessing this specific phase of the dispersal process generally requires combining diaspore retention times with the associated distances covered. Here, we specifically tested the effect of grooming behavior, interindividual contacts and ungulate fur on diaspore retention times and associated dispersal distances for the hooked diaspores of Xanthium strumarium L. experimentally attached to tamed individuals of three ungulate species. We used a comparative approach based on differing fur quality on different body zones of these three ungulates. During 6-hr sessions, we monitored for grooming and social interactions that may induce intended or inadvertent diaspore detachment. Additionally, we proposed innovative approaches to directly assessing diaspore dispersal distances by red deer in situ. Fat-tailed functions fitted diaspore retention time, highlighting the potential for long-distance dispersal events. The longer the hair, the higher the retention capacity of diaspores in the animal's fur. As predicted, donkey retained diaspores longer than red deer and dwarf goat; and we also confirmed that diaspores attached to the short hair of the head fell off more quickly than did those on the other body zones. Dwarf goat groomed more often than both red deer and donkey, but also when it carried diaspores. Up to 14% of the diaspores detached from animal fur after specific grooming behavior. We observed, in controlled conditions, for the first time and for each ungulate species, interindividual transfers of diaspores, representing 5% of the diaspores attached to animals' fur. Our results militate for incorporating animal behavior into plant dispersal modeling approaches.
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Submitted on : Saturday, May 16, 2020 - 4:59:27 PM
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O. Liehrmann, F. Jegoux, M.A. Guilbert, F. Isselin Nondedeu, S. Saïd, et al.. Epizoochorous dispersal by ungulates depends on fur, grooming and social interactions. Ecology and Evolution, Wiley Open Access, 2018, 8 (3), pp.1582-1594. ⟨10.1002/ece3.3768⟩. ⟨hal-02608820⟩



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