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Gastrointestinal passage time of seeds ingested by captive Japanese martens Martes melampus

Yamato Tsuji, Sayako Miura, and Toshiaki Shiraishi

The time it takes for ingested seeds to pass through the gut of animals is an important aspect of endozoochorous seed dispersal because it influences seed dispersal distance. Variations in the physical characteristics of seeds, such as their weight, volume, and specific gravity, can affect their movement through the gastrointestinal system of a given animal. We conducted feeding experiments with captive Japanese martens, Martes melampus (n=4), at Toyama Municipal Family Park Zoo, central Japan to examine the effects of the physical characteristics of seeds on their passage times. The mean (±SD) transit time, mean retention time, and time of last appearance of four different types of commercial seeds were 2.6±0.3 h (range 0.6-5.4), 9.7±1.1 h (3.8-17.3), and 23.8±3.1 h (12.2-51.8), respectively. All of these values are greater than those found during previous experiments conducted with mustelids. Similar to previous studies, however, none of these passage time variables was correlated with the physical characteristics of seeds. Our results thus indicate that martens disperse seeds of different plant species, whose size, volume, and specific gravity all fall within the range of those used in the present study, from parent plants at similar distances.

Acta Theriologica 56: 353-357

SEP/15/2011

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