Nature or ecological systems are be complex. Being asked about the general task of saving nature I find myself to resorting to, well there are so many inter-dependencies that destroying one small part – the extinction of a plant, a bird, even a tree bark fungus may have a ripple effect on a few other or perhaps dozens of other species and processes. It has been estimated that the oyster population of the Chesapeake Bay was able to filter the entire bay about once a week. Between pollution, destruction and over harvesting only about one percent of the oyster population of a hundred years ago remains. That has dire consequences for once thriving livelihood for watermen, consumers and the general health of the bay – and the oceans for hundreds of miles around. This is another good example of a specific, Airborne gut action primes wild chili pepper seeds
Scientists have long known that seeds gobbled by birds and dispersed across the landscape tend to fare better than those that fall near parent plants where seed-hungry predators and pathogens are more concentrated.
Now it turns out it might not just be the trip through the air that’s important, but also the inches-long trip through the bird.
Seeds from a wild chili pepper plant found in South America, after being eaten and passed through the digestive tract of small-billed Elaenias, emerge with less of the odor that attracts seed-eating ants, and carrying fewer pathogens able to kill the seed.
Passing through bird guts increased seed survival 370 percent, regardless of how far the seeds were dispersed from its parent, according to Evan Fricke, a UW doctoral student in biology and lead author of a paper appearing online June 21 in Ecology Letters.
“Ecologists have not been considering gut processing as a factor when they find seeds having less predation or infection away from parent plants, but they should,” Fricke said. “If similar mechanisms are happening with other species, then ecologists have been missing some major benefits of seed dispersal mutualism between plants and animals.”
The assumption has been that the better success was all a matter of distance. And in some cases it is. There have been previous experiments, for example, where seeds from a single plant were planted right by the plant and others at some distance away – no passing through an animal gut, just planted by hand. The seeds farther away survived better.