General principles about the consequences of seed dispersal by animals for the structure and dynamics of plant populations and communities remain elusive. This is in part because seed deposition patterns emerge from interactions between frugivore behaviour and the distribution of food resources, both of which can vary over space and time. Here we advocate a frugivore-centred, process-based, synthetic approach to seed dispersal research that integrates seed dispersal ecology and animal movement across multiple spatio-temporal scales. To guide this synthesis, we survey existing literature using paradigms from seed dispersal and animal movement. Specifically, studies are discussed with respect to five criteria: selection of focal organisms (animal or plant); measurement of animal movement; characterization of seed shadow; animal, plant and environmental factors included in the study; and scales of the study. Most studies focused on either frugivores or plants and characterized seed shadows directly by combining gut retention time with animal movement data or indirectly by conducting maternity analysis of seeds. Although organismal traits and environmental factors were often measured, they were seldom used to characterize seed shadows. Multi-scale analyses were rare, with seed shadows mostly characterized at fine spatial scales, over single fruiting seasons, and for individual dispersers. Novel animal- and seed-tracking technologies, remote environmental monitoring tools, and advances in analytical methods can enable effective implementation of a hierarchical mechanistic approach to the study of seed dispersal. This kind of mechanistic approach will provide novel insights regarding the complex interplay between the factors that modulate animal behaviour and subsequently influence seed dispersal patterns across spatial and temporal scales.