Academic journal article The American Midland Naturalist

Is the Coyote (Canis Latrans) a Potential Seed Disperser for the American Persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana)?

Academic journal article The American Midland Naturalist

Is the Coyote (Canis Latrans) a Potential Seed Disperser for the American Persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana)?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT.-

The role of carnivores in seed dispersal has only recently been studied in North American plants. We investigated the potential effectiveness of the Coyote (Canis latrans) as a seed disperser for American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana; Ebenaceae) and tested the effect of experimental design in gut passage experiments. Germination percentage and rate and vigor of seedlings produced by D. virginiana seeds collected from Coyote scat were compared to seeds removed from or contained in whole fruit in a common garden experiment. Germination percentages for Coyote ingested seeds and whole fruit were nearly the same. Emergence was significantly faster for seedlings produced from ingested seeds compared to those seeds in whole fruit, however the quality of these seedlings was significandy poorer. Seedlings produced by seeds artificially removed from fruits had greater survival than those resulting from seeds ingested by coyotes or contained in intact fruits. Our results suggest that Coyotes can effectively disperse D. virginiana, but whether the positive aspects of dispersal outweigh the negative effects of gut passage remains an open question. Our experimental results indicate that these two species have not coevolved, as expected, since the range of Coyotes has only recently overlapped substantially with that of D. virginiana.

Introduction

Authors have proposed that several large fruited plants are anachronistic (Barlow, 2000), in that there is no obvious extant seed disperser, despite the production of large, apparently edible fruit. Presumably, die coevolved mutualistic animal disperser is recendy extinct. A classic example includes the Tombalacoque Tree ( Calvaría major) of Mauritious (Temple, 1977), which may have coevolved with the Dodo Bird (Raphus cucuUatus), although this example has come under intense scrutiny in recent years. (Barlow, 2000; Witmer and Cheke, 1991). Nordi America may have an especially rich variety of anachronistic fruits, due to the late Pleistocene megafaunal extinction that occurred about 10,000 years ago. The American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) produces a large true berry which has been described as either a strong (Janzen and Martin, 1982) or moderate (Barlow, 2000) candidate as an anachronistic fruit.

The American Persimmon ranges throughout the eastern half of the United States from the Great Plains to the Adantic Coast, north to the 40th parallel (Halls, 1981). The fossil record of Diospyros extends from the mid Cretaceous Period and Diospyros virginiana was present and presumably abundant in North America during the Pleistocene (Skallerup, 1953). Although it is unknown if there was a now-extinct megafaunal seed disperser for die American Persimmon (Mastadons have been suggested, Barlow, 2000) , it is too large to be consumed by typical temperate Nortii American dispersers such as birds (Skallerup, 1953). However, with its fleshy pericarp, it appears to be a large potential food reward (Chambers and MacMahon, 1994). The fruit is consumed by several native carnivores which may represent an example of an atypical seed disperser. Species from the Order Carnivora have not typically been considered good candidates for coevolution with plants as seed dispersers, since they feed predominately on other animals. However, many carnivores frequendy include plant material in their diet (Herrera, 1989; Willson, 1993) especially fruits with high caloric value (Traba et al., 2006; Alves-Costa and Eterovick, 2007; Guitián and Munilla, 2010), and it has been suggested that carnivores contribute to seed dispersal, particularly in fleshy fruited temperate North American plants (Willson, 1993). Carnivores may even provide advantages such as larger foraging ranges and longer seed passage times (Zhou et al., 2008).

One candidate seed disperser for the Diospyros virginiana is the Coyote Cants latrans) which is known to frequently include fruit in its diet. The seeds of various plants are known to survive gut passage in Coyotes and in some cases appear to benefit from the interaction (Silverstein, 2005). …

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