Plant migration rates and seed dispersal mechanisms


Pakeman Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK. E-mail:



Holocene plant migration rates appear to greatly exceed measured dispersal distances. This is a feature of species with all dispersal mechanisms and in all communities. The role of dispersal by large mammalian herbivores is explored as a mechanism that accounts for the observed dispersal rates.


A simple model was constructed that took into account herbivore dispersal and how migration rates might vary with herbivore territory size, gut survival and probability of consumption.


Even at relatively low probabilities of consumption and gut survival, dispersal by animals within large territories could account for observed rates of dispersal in the palaeorecord. Animals with small territory sizes could not produce large enough rates of dispersal.

Main conclusions

As many modern day grassland plants appear to survive gut passage, endozoochory by large mammalian herbivores could be the main mechanism for long-distance dispersal of herbaceous species.