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Endozoochory by granivorous rodents in seed dispersal of green fruits

Yang, Yueqin, Zhang, Yihao, Deng, Yinhua, Yi, Xianfeng
Canadian journal of zoology 2019 v.97 no.1 pp. 42-49
Actinidia arguta, Actinidia kolomikta, Apodemus, Clethrionomys, Myodes, Tamias sibiricus, birds, digestive system, feces, frugivores, fruits, granivores, ingestion, mice, mutualism, seed dispersal, seed germination, seeds, temperate forests, vines, voles
Although the role of frugivores in seed dispersal has attracted scientific attention, it remains unclear whether granivorous rodents can act as frugivores to interact mutualistically with fruit-producing plants, especially those bearing green fruits inconspicuous to avian frugivores. In this study, we tracked fruit removal of the tara vine (Actinidia arguta (Siebold & Zucc.) Planch. Ex Miq.) and variegated kiwi vine (Actinidia kolomikta (Rupr. & Maxim.) Maxim.) in a temperate forest and presented fruits to the granivorous rodents Siberian chipmunk (Tamias sibiricus (Laxmann, 1769)), Korean field mouse (Apodemus peninsulae (Thomas, 1907)), and gray red-backed vole (Clethrionomys rufocanus (Sundevall, 1846) = Myodes rufocanus (Sundevall, 1846)) in the laboratory to answer this question. Seeds were collected from rodent feces to see the effects of gut passage on seed germination to determine the role of granivorous rodents in endozoochory of A. arguta and A. kolomikta. We presented clear evidence of endozoochory by granivorous rodents in seed dispersal of the two Actinidia species. Rodents appeared to play an alternative role in dispersing plants bearing green fruits. Moreover, we observed increased germination rates after gut ingestion by the granivorous rodents. Our study evidenced endozoochory of granivorous rodents and provided new insight into the mutualist interactions between rodents and plant species bearing fleshy fruits containing tiny seeds. We suggest future studies pay more attention to endozoochory of rodents and establish their mutualistic relationship with fruit-bearing plants in temperate forests.