Animal impact on seed dispersal of plants Depending on the strength of their Memory

Animals play a critical role in dispersal of seeds for plant offspring to grow since plants themselves lack mobility. According to Howe and Smallwood (1982) it is essential for seeds to be moved by some source whether it be animals, wind, etc. in order to avoid mortality. Seeds that fall directly under the parent plant lack the resources to grow because they fall under the canopy of the parent plant. To avoid death the seeds must be moved but it’s difficult to say where the seeds will be moved, and if the environment, climate, or predation levels will allow it to prosper.

The article Plant ecology meets animal cognition: impacts of animal memory on seed dispersal focused on models of memory-based movement by animals and seed dispersal to understand the impact on plant reproduction (John et al., 2016). The first model was studied by using random animals and results showed that animals with greater memory had more frequent visits to the fruit trees whereas animals with low memory paid less visits. The more the animals visited the tree the more seeds were dispersed. Thus higher levels of memory equaled higher levels of dispersed seeds. The second model was studied using Chelonoidis carbonaria and two plants in competition for the animals seed dispersal service. The results showed that animals with no memory of the plants did not favour one plant over the other whereas animals with high memory levels returned to the site and favored the plant with greater reward to the animal (John et al., 2016).

These results indicated the importance of animal memory on seed dispersal. Not only do the plants benefit but the animals do as well. If they have high memory levels they can remember where to attain their rewards and prosper whereas the low memory animals died in the experiment after a few tests. Similarly larger plants with greater rewards for animals strived whereas competing plants that were smaller had less offspring. It’s also known by a study conducted by Gawler et al. (1987) that plants such as Pedicularis furbishiae grow larger mainly to be able to reproduce. So there is a direct correlation with plant size and seed dispersal by animals, and thus reproduction.

1. Gawler S. C., Walter D. M., and Menges E. M. 1987. Environmental factors affecting establishment and growth of Pedicularis furbishiae, a rare endemic of the St. John River Valley, Maine. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 114: 280-292.
2. Howe H.F., and Smallwood J. 1982. Ecology of seed dispersal. Ecological Systems. 13: 201-228.
3. John E.A., Soldati F., Burman H.B., Wilkinson. A., and Pike T.W. 2016. Plant ecology meets animal cognition: impacts of animal memory on seed dispersal. Plant Ecology. 217: 1441-1456.

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