Ecological correlates of seed survival after ingestion by Fallow Deer


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  • 1The survival and retention of seeds was studied by feeding known quantities of seeds of 25 species to four captive Fallow Deer (Dama dama L.). To test for ecological correlates, plant species were selected to represent large variation in seed size, seed shape, seed longevity and habitat fertility.
  • 2Seeds of 24 out of 25 fed plant species survived ingestion and defecation by Fallow Deer. Seed survival ranged between 0·5 and 42% of germinable seeds fed. Time to recover 50% of all seeds defecated by Fallow Deer in faeces averaged 25 h, and ranged from 13 to 38 h.
  • 3Seed survival was negatively related to seed mass (R = 0·65) and variance of unit seed dimensions (R = −0·56), and positively related to seed longevity (R = 0·40), but not related to habitat fertility. Log10 of (seed mass × variance of seed dimensions) was the best predictor of seed survival (R = −0·68).
  • 4The ecological correlates of seed survival presented here can help us to estimate the ability of plant species to disperse seeds over long distances.