Fish also help in seed dispersal in forests

February 6th, 2008 - 3:58 pm ICT by admin  

London, Feb 6 (ANI): A new research has revealed that fish have a remarkable role in distributing the seeds of tropical plants.

The research was carried out in Brazil’s Pantanal, the largest freshwater wetlands in the world, by a team from the Sao Paulo State University.

According to a report in Nature News, in the usual methods of animal seed dispersal, primates, rodents and birds either eat fruit and ingest seeds contained inside or get seeds from the plant stuck to their bodies. Later, the seeds are either defecated intact, or fall off.

But in recent years, ecologists have found seeds in the digestive tracts of more than a hundred fish species as well.

In the Pantanal, plants including palms and legumes tend to release their fruits during a time of year when massive flooding is common, and waters encroach over thousands of square kilometres.

The fruits fall from the trees into water and the pacu, one of the most common fish in the Pantanal, migrate deep inland during such floods and munch on the fruit.

Mauro Galetti, at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil, and his team looked to see whether these fish were carrying intact seeds, which they could defecate in areas that dry out when the floodwaters recede.

The team explored the guts of 70 fish collected at Fazenda Rio Negro, an ecologically diverse area of the Pantanal that teems with wildlife.

What they found was that there was a positive correlation between fish size and the number of intact seeds in the stomach. In fact, more than 141 seeds from the tucum palm were found in the largest individuals.

From the data collected, it seems that the tucum palm relies almost entirely on pacu services for seed dispersal, said Galetti. It is amazing that for some plant species, pacu appear to be the main dispersers, he added.

This is the first report that I know of suggesting links between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems where fishing may be impacting tropical forests, sad ichthyologist Bill Pine at the University of Florida in Gainsville.

I think the Amazon and African jungles need to be extensively studied for ecosystems like this, said Galetti. Fish seed distribution is probably a lot more common than we realize, he added. (ANI)

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