Just out @ Ecology and Evolution
Seed dispersal of Diospyros virginiana in the past and the present: Evidence for a generalist evolutionary strategy
Mimi Rebein, Charli N. Davis, Helena Abad, Taylor Stone, Jillian de Sol, Natalie Skinner, Matthew D. Moran
Several North American trees are hypothesized to have lost their co-evolved seed disperser during the late-Pleistocene extinction and are therefore considered anachronistic. We tested this hypothesis for the American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) by studying the effects of gut passage of proposed seed dispersers on seedling survival and growth, natural fruiting characteristics, and modern animal consumption patterns. We tested gut passage effects on persimmon seeds using three native living species, the raccoon (Procyon lotor), Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), and coyote (Canis latrans), and two Pleistocene analogs; the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and alpaca (Vicugna pacos). Persimmon seeds excreted by raccoons, coyotes, and elephants survived gut transit. Gut passage did not affect sprouting success, but did tend to decrease time to sprout and increase seedling quality. Under field conditions, persimmon fruits were palatable on the parent tree and on the ground for an equal duration, but most fruits were consumed on the ground. Seven vertebrate species fed upon persimmon fruits, with the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)—a species not capable of dispersing persimmon seeds—comprising over 90% of detections. Conversely, potential living seed dispersers were rarely detected. Our results suggest the American persimmon evolved to attract a variety of seed dispersers and thus is not anachronistic. However, human-induced changes in mammal communities could be affecting successful seed dispersal. We argue that changes in the relative abundance of mammals during the Anthropocene may be modifying seed dispersal patterns, leading to potential changes in forest community composition.
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