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Seed dispersal by lizards on a continental‐shelf island: predicting interspecific variation in seed rain based on plant distribution and lizard movement patterns

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Aim  We estimated the patterns of seed deposition provided by the eyed lizard, Timon lepidus, and evaluated whether these patterns can be generalized across plant species with different traits (fruit and seed size) and spatial distributions.

Location  Monteagudo Island, Atlantic Islands National Park (north‐western Spain).

Methods  We radio‐tracked seven lizards for 14 days and estimated their home ranges using fixed kernels. We also geo‐referenced all fruit‐bearing individuals of four plant species dispersed by eyed lizards in the study area (Corema album, Osyris alba, Rubus ulmifolius and Tamus communis), measured the passage time of their seeds through the lizard gut, and estimated seed predation in four habitats (bare sand, grassland, shrub and gorse). Seed dispersal kernels were estimated using a combination of these data and were combined with seed predation probability maps to incorporate post‐dispersal seed fate (‘seed survival kernels’).

Results  Median seed gut‐passage times were around 52–98 h, with maximum values up to 250 h. Lizards achieved maximum displacement in their home ranges within 24–48 h. Seed predation was high (80–100% of seeds in 2 months), particularly under Corema shrub and gorse. Seed dispersal kernels showed a common pattern, with two areas of preferential seed deposition, but the importance of these varied among plant species. Interspecific differences among dispersal kernels were strongly reduced by post‐dispersal seed predation; hence, seed survival kernels of the different plant species showed high auto‐ and pairwise‐correlations at small distances (< 50 m). As a result, survival to post‐dispersal seed predation increased with dispersal distance for O. alba and T. communis, but not for C. album.

Main conclusions  Seed dispersal by lizards was determined primarily by the interaction between the dispersers’ home ranges and the position of the fruit‐bearing plants. As a result, seed rain shared a common template, but showed considerable variation among species, determined by their specific spatial context. Seed predation increased the spatial coherence of the seed rain of the different species, but also resulted in contrasting relationships between seed survival and dispersal distance, which may be of importance for the demographic and evolutionary processes of the plants.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB), C/Miquel Marquès 21, E07190 Esporles, Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain 2: Department of Ecological Modelling, UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – Umweltforschungszentrum, PF 500136, D04301 Leipzig, Germany 3: Departamento de Biología Vegetal y Ciencias del Suelo, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Vigo, As Lagoas-Marcosende, 36200 Vigo, Spain

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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