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The role of bushpigs (Potamochoerus larvatus) as seed dispersers in indigenous forests in the Soutpansberg Mountain range, South Africa

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posted on 2023-12-04, 10:31 authored by Kerstin B. Hikel, Marcell K. Peters, Jabu Linden, Birthe Linden

Seed dispersal influences the survival and distribution of plant species and is an important mechanism for maintaining floristic diversity. Bushpigs (Potamochoerus larvatus) are large mammals of indigenous forests and well-wooded areas of eastern and southern Africa and may play an important role as seed dispersers. However, the diversity of fruits consumed and the effect of digestion on seeds remains poorly understood. This study was conducted from October 2018 to January 2019 and gives first insights into seed dispersal by bushpigs in the Soutpansberg Mountain range, South Africa. Here, we collected bushpig faeces and assessed the number of seeds and seed species found. Furthermore, germination experiments with digested and nondigested seeds and fruits were conducted. Our results show that bushpigs are omnivorous, consuming fruits and seeds of 126 different plant species. The proportion of seeds per plant species found in faeces was unhomogeneously distributed with a few hyperabundant species, in particular Searsia chirindensis (55%). The germination experiments showed that gut passage did, overall, not influence germination or seedling growth rates. However, seeds remaining within fruits showed reduced growth, pointing to a high importance of fruit consumption for seed fate. Our results suggest that bushpigs are major seed dispersers of a large variety of fruiting plant species in wooded areas of Africa.

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