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How to predict attachment potential of seeds to sheep and cattle coat from simple morphological seed traits


  • Christine Römermann,

  • Oliver Tackenberg,

  • Peter Poschlod

C. Römermann, O. Tackenberg and P. Poschlod, Institute of Botany, Univ. of Regensburg, DE-93040 Regensburg, Germany (


Dispersal is a process that determines many aspects in the life-history of plants. Up to now, however, it is difficult to quantify. Many studies rather assess it as a categorical trait, i.e. assuming a species is dispersed by a certain vector or not. Gradual differences in the dispersal potential between species are rarely considered.

In this paper we focus on the key process of epizoochory: the attachment potential of species to animal coats. We present two simple models (GLMs) how to quantify and to predict attachment potentials to sheep wool and to cattle hair from easily measurable seed traits. To calibrate the models, we investigated the attachment potential of seeds of 130 plant species on mechanically shaken coats of sheep and cattle and measured traits describing the seeds. We found that seed mass and seed morphology were correlated with attachment potentials. For sheep wool, the combination of the logarithm of seed mass and a constant for the different seed morphology types explained 85% of the variation of attachment potentials. For cattle hair, 71% were explained. To validate the models, they were applied to 36 additional species. Predicted and experimentally measured attachment potentials were correlated with r=0.84 for sheep wool and r=0.61 for cattle wool. Thus, the attachment potential of seeds to sheep or cattle coat can be assessed for a large set of species using the described models if seed mass and seed morphology are known.