Friday, July 05, 2024

Fox Foto Friday - Island Foxes as Seed Dispersers

What do these year-old toyon plants have in common?

They were grown from seeds found in island fox scat. 

FIF talks about island foxes eating native plant fruits and spreading the seeds across the islands, but now there is scientific evidence that this seed dispersal can help island plants.

Researchers Savannah Bartel and John Orrock from the Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, were investigating the role social status plays in vertebrate dispersal of seeds. They collected island fox scat with toyon seeds and attempted to grow the seeds. And they grew!


While passing through the digestive system of an island fox didn't necessarily improve germination, being in carnivore scat provides seeds with protection. Rodents, like island deer mice, tend to avoid carnivore predators and their poop. 


Island fox's eating toyon berries are providing the toyon's seeds with a protective compost pile to grow in. 

toyon berries