The effect of seed morphology on the potential dispersal of aquatic macrophytes by the common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

B.J.A. Pollux*, M. De Jong, A. Steegh, N.J. Ouborg, J.M. Van Groenendael, M. Klaassen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


1. The potential for seed dispersal by fish (ichthyochory) will vary among aquatic plants because of differences in seed size and morphology. 2. To examine how seed morphology influences the probability of dispersal by the common carp (Cyprinus carpio), we studied seed ingestion, retention time and subsequent egestion and germination of seeds of Sparganium emersum and Sagittaria sagittifolia, two aquatic plant species with similar sized but morphologically different seeds. 3. We compared dispersal probabilities between the two plant species, in which the probability of dispersal is assumed to be a function of the probabilities of seed ingestion, egestion and germination, and the dispersal distance is assumed to be a function of seed egestion rate over time. 4. We found that, although the soft seeds of S. sagittifolia had an approximately 1.5 times higher probability of being ingested by the carp than the hard seeds of S. emersum (83.15% ± 1.8% versus 56.16% ± 2.7%, respectively), the latter had an almost twofold higher probability of surviving the passage through the digestive tract (38.58% ± 2.7% versus 20.97% ± 1.5%, respectively). Patterns of seed egestion over time did not differ between the two plant species, despite the difference in seed morphology. Gut passage had a different effect on seed germination between plant species. Compared with non-ingested controls, seeds of S. emersum showed a 12.6% increase in germination and a 2.1 day acceleration in germination rate, whereas seeds of S. sagittifolia displayed a 47.3% decrease and 5.1 day delay, respectively. 5. Our results suggest that seed morphology affects the dispersal probability and postdispersal establishment, but not the dispersal distance, of aquatic plants that are dispersed by fish.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2063-2071
Number of pages9
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Endozoochory
  • Gut passage
  • Ichthyochory
  • Postdispersal establishment
  • Retention time

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