Are Seeds Consumed by Crocodilians Viable? A Test of the Crocodilian Saurochory Hypothesis
Many animal species are important dispersers of seeds; however, relatively little attention has been paid to the seed-dispersal capabilities of reptiles, and almost nothing is known about the seed-dispersal capabilities of crocodilians. This lack of information is surprising given that seeds have been found in the stomach contents of a majority of crocodilian species. Here we present the first experimental investigation of the seed-dispersal potential of a crocodilian. Using a comparative germination experiment, we tested the viability of Annona glabra (Pond-apple Tree) seeds recovered from the stomach of an Alligator mississippiensis (American Alligator [Alligator]) captured in the Florida Coastal Everglades. We found that seeds from the Alligator's stomach were nonviable under ideal germination conditions and that fresh, non-digested Pond-apple seeds exposed to the same germination conditions were highly viable. The seeds recovered from the Alligator’s stomach were nonviable because they were likely destroyed by stomach acids. Thus, Alligators are likely not dispersers of Pond-apple seeds and may instead act as seed predators. Further research is needed to test the potential of crocodilians as dispersers of other types of seeds from different plant families.
Rosenblatt, A.E., S. Zona, M.R. Heithaus, F.J. Mazzotti. 2014. Are seeds consumed by crocodilians viable? A test of the crocodilian saurochory hypothesis. Southeastern Naturalist 13(3): N26-N29. http://dx.doi.org/10.1656/058.013.0304