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Oecologia. 2007 Aug;153(2):331-9. Epub 2007 May 22.

Experimental studies of diaspore attachment to animal coats: predicting epizoochorous dispersal potential.

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Institute of Botany, University of Regensburg, 93040 Regensburg, Germany.


The transport of diaspores on animal hairs depends on the ability of a diaspore to attach to the hair and to be retained in it over longer periods of time. Whereas several studies of diaspore retention on animal hairs have been conducted recently, the process of diaspore attachment to the hair has not yet been studied systematically. We describe a new method to quantify the attachment potential (AtP) of plant diaspores. Attachment potential was measured as the proportion of diaspores of a given species that attached to pieces of an animal coat in a standardised experiment. The experiment was conducted for 58 plant species (herbs and grasses) and three different coat types: sheep wool, cattle and roe deer hair. Attachment potentials differed widely between the three coat types, but also between plant species. We found diaspore surface structure (a quantitative measure of diaspore morphology) and diaspore exposition (describing the morphology of the infructescence) to be the most important plant traits regulating AtP. An influence of seed mass on attachment potential could not be detected. For sheep wool, a general linear model (with diaspore exposure as a factor and diaspore surface structure as covariate) explained 77% of the variation in AtPs. To validate this model, we predicted AtPs for 27 additional species and compared these to the measured Atps; the predicted and measured AtPscorrelated significantly with r(s) = 0.68. A comparison of attachment and retention potentials to sheep wool for 127 randomly selected plant species showed that attachment and retention are only very weakly correlated, indicating that both processes act rather independently of each other. Since many diaspores seem to perform well in only one of these processes, attachment can be considered to be as equally as decisive as retention in terms of epizoochorous dispersal.

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