Evolutionary adaptations of dry-seeded plant species to endozoochorous dispersal


Endozoochory is a term that describes the phenomenon in which plants are dispersed through animal consumption of seeds leaving germinative capacity intact. With it, attention is traditionally fixed on birds consuming fleshy fruits (or false fruits) with thick-coated seeds. However, most free-ranging ungulates -cattle, horse, sheep…- are known to disperse a large number of grassland plants endozoochorically, too. In contrast to the former, these plant species do not possess obvious morphological traits supporting this dispersal mechanism.

However, one can therefore not say suitable traits to be absent. A small seed size, for instance, might actually be an endozoochory-supporting trait by escaping the molar mill and digestive system. Since vertebrate consumption of herbaceous plants and the infructescences they bear has been going on for millions of years, suchlike traits might moreover be adaptations to this means of dispersal! After all, since free-ranging ungulates cover great distances, often directed to predictable sites, endozoochory could in fact be advantageous from a plant’s point of view.

This study aims at determining the costs and benefits of endozoochorous dispersal from a plant’s perspective. It hopes to answer whether, why and how plants are adapted to this means of dispersal. In this way, the evolution of grassland species can be better understood, and consequences of grazing management can be better assessed.


endozoochory, ungulates, seed dispersal, foliage is the fruit


Terrestrial Ecology {Research discipline}
Species {Integration level}
Ecosystem {Integration level}
National {Cooperation status}
Origins, Maintenance and Change of Biodiversity {Research orientation}
Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable use of Biodiversity {Research orientation}
Belgium {Geographical scope}
Dry and Sub-humid Lands {Habitat type}
General Measures for Conservation and Sustainable Use {Research purpose}
Magnoliophyta {Taxonomical scope}


Name Role Start End
Matheve, Hans admin
D'hondt, Bram promotor


Name Role Start End
Terrestrial Ecology leader

created:2011-12-14 14:18:59 UTC, source:web

© 2012 by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform