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Data from: Special delivery: scavengers direct seed dispersal towards ungulate carcasses

Citation

Steyaert, Sam M.J.G. et al. (2018), Data from: Special delivery: scavengers direct seed dispersal towards ungulate carcasses, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.h3c55cc

Abstract

Cadaver decomposition-islands around animal carcasses can facilitate establishment of various plant life. Facultative scavengers have great potential for endozoochory, and often aggregate around carcasses. Hence, they may disperse plant seeds that they ingest across the landscape towards cadaver decomposition-islands. Here, we demonstrate this novel mechanism along a gradient of wild tundra reindeer carcasses. First, we show that the spatial distribution of scavenger feces (birds and foxes) was concentrated around carcasses. Second, feces of the predominant scavengers (corvids) commonly contained viable seeds of crowberry, a keystone species of the alpine tundra with predominantly vegetative reproduction. We suggest that cadaver decomposition-islands function as endpoints for directed endozoochory by scavengers. Such a mechanism could be especially beneficial for species that rely on small scale disturbances in soil and vegetation, such as several Nordic berry-producing species with cryptic generative reproduction.

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