Effects of seed traits for the potential of seed dispersal by fish with contrasting modes of feeding

G. Boedeltje, T. Spannings, G. Flik, B.J.A. Pollux, F.A. Sibbing, W.C.E.P. Verberk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

For aquatic and riparian plants, the important role of fish in seed dispersal is increasingly recognised. While the propensity of seeds to disperse is known to be a function of morphological, physical and chemical traits of the seed, in the case of fish-mediated seed dispersal (ichthyochory), it is largely unknown how seed traits modulate the potential for seed ingestion and their subsequent survival through the gut. Furthermore, which seed traits are important may vary among fish species. To evaluate the role of both seed and fish traits in ichthyochory, we fed seeds of 19 aquatic and riparian plant species to fish with differing feeding mechanisms. Cyprinus carpio (common carp) has a pharyngeal ‘mill’, which it uses physically to crush hard food, while Oreochromis mossambicus (Mozambique tilapia) has only tiny oral and pharyngeal teeth and instead relies more on chemical digestion. A number of seed traits, including hardness, size and shape, were important determinants of the potential of seeds for ichthyochory. Certain traits (e.g. seed dimensions) were more important during ingestion, whereas other traits were more important for seed survival and subsequent germination (e.g. seed hardness, mucilaginous coat). Compared to controls, germination of retrieved seeds in carp was lower in 10 and higher in two plant species, whereas for tilapia, it was lower in seven and higher in three species. Overlap between these plant species was low, indicating clear difference between the fish studied in their potential for seed dispersal. Carp increased in size during the experiment and concomitant decreases in seed survival and retrieval were found, suggesting that body size and the correlated bite force is an important fish trait in ichthyochory. Overall, seed hardness, size and shape appear crucial for the survival of seeds passing through the guts of carp and tilapia. Beyond this general pattern, a greater complexity of trait-performance relationships appeared: different seed traits are involved during each of the stages of ichthyochory. Moreover, the importance of seed traits differed between carp and tilapia, with some traits having interactive and contrasting effects in both fish species. Aquatic plants with floating seeds adapted to hydrochorous dispersal were less likely to be dispersed by tilapia than plants with non-floating seeds, suggesting a dispersal trade-off between ichthyochory and hydrochory. Thus, depending on their seed characteristics, fish may offer an additional dispersal route to aquatic and riparian plants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)944-959
Number of pages16
JournalFreshwater Biology
Volume60
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • carp cyprinus-carpio
  • life-history traits
  • common carp
  • digestive-tract
  • ruppia-maritima
  • wetland plants
  • size
  • fruit
  • germination
  • floodplain

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of seed traits for the potential of seed dispersal by fish with contrasting modes of feeding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this