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Extreme Long-Distance Seed Dispersal via Sheep

Pablo Manzano and Juan E. Malo
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Vol. 4, No. 5 (Jun., 2006), pp. 244-248
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3868790
Page Count: 5
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Extreme Long-Distance Seed Dispersal via Sheep
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Abstract

Extremely long seed dispersal distances occur as a result of processes such as ocean drift and tornadoes. However, we have found that large numbers of seeds with different morphologies (Trifolium angustifolium, Daucus carota, Hordeum murinum, and Plantago lagopus) are frequently dispersed equivalent distances while attached to migrating ungulates. We determined experimentally that seeds attached to the fleece of traditional nomadic ("transhumant") sheep are transported distances of up to several hundred kilometers in substantial numbers (ranging from 5-47% of the initial seed population). Given the current and historical importance of migrating herds of sheep (wild and domestic) on different continents, the results of this study highlight the role of adhesion in long-distance dispersal and support the inclusion of migrating ungulates among forces responsible rapid plant migrations (eg following glaciations, invasion events, or in a future global change scenario). Our results also highlight an unexplored ecological consequence of abandoning nomadism.

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