Seed dispersal by fishes in tropical and temperate fresh waters: The growing evidence

M.H. Horn, S.B. Correa, P. Parolin, B.J.A. Pollux, J.T. Anderson, C. Lucas, P. Widmann, A. Tjiu, M. Galetti, M. Goulding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Fruit-eating by fishes represents an ancient (perhaps Paleozoic) interaction increasingly regarded as important for seed dispersal (ichthyochory) in tropical and temperate ecosystems. Most of the more than 275 known frugivorous species belong to the mainly Neotropical Characiformes (pacus, piranhas) and Siluriformes (catfishes), but cypriniforms (carps, minnows) are more important in the Holarctic and Indomalayan regions. Frugivores are among the most abundant fishes in Neotropical floodplains where they eat the fruits of a wide variety of trees and shrubs. By consuming fruits, fishes gain access to rich sources of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins and act as either seed predators or seed dispersers. With their often high mobility, large size, and great longevity, fruit-eating fishes can play important roles as seed dispersers and exert strong influences on local plant-recruitment dynamics and regional biodiversity. Recent feeding experiments focused on seed traits after gut passage support the idea that fishes are major seed dispersers in floodplain and riparian forests. Overfishing, damming, deforestation and logging potentially diminish ichthyochory and require immediate attention to ameliorate their effects. Much exciting work remains in terms of fish and plant adaptations to ichthyochory, dispersal regimes involving fishes in different ecosystems, and increased use of nondestructive methods such as stomach lavage, stable isotopes, genetic analyses and radio transmitters to determine fish diets and movements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-577
Number of pages17
JournalActa Oecologica-International Journal of Ecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • zambezi river floodplain
  • carp cyprinus-carpio
  • common carp
  • colossoma-macropomum
  • rain-forest
  • piaractus-mesopotamicus
  • submerged macrophytes
  • amazonian floodplains
  • potential dispersal
  • systematic revision

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