Date:March 22, 2016
Some species of plants are capable of colonising new habitats thanks to birds that transport their seeds in their plumage or digestive tract. Until recently it was known that birds could do this over short distances, but a new study shows that they are also capable of dispersing them over more than 300 kilometres. For researchers, this function could be key in the face of climate change, allowing the survival of many species.
Birds can act as dispersers of seeds and other propagules -buds, bulbs, tubers or spores- over short distances which, in many cases, do not exceed a kilometre and a half. However, it had not been demonstrated whether or not they were capable of doing so over longer distances.
A team led by scientists at the Doñana Biological Station-CSIC (Spanish Council for Scientific Research) in Seville (Spain) confirmed this hypothesis due to the seeds found in the digestive tract of various species of birds hunted in the Canaries by Eleonora's falcons (Falco eleonorae) during their migration towards Africa.
"This mechanism of long-distance dispersion had not been confirmed until now, mainly due to the difficulty involved in sampling propagules transported by birds during their migratory flight. We were able to analyse it thanks to the hunting behaviour of Eleonora's falcons," Duarte Viana, researcher in the Doñana Biological Station and co-author of the study, explained.