Opposing forces of seed dispersal and seed predation by mammals for an invasive cactus in central Kenya
During my undergraduate degrees at University of Wyoming I worked with Dr. Jacob Goheen and Anne-Marie Hodge to determine seed fate of an invasive cactus in Laikipia, Kenya.
The invasive erect prickly pear cactus (Opuntia stricta) has reduced rangeland quality and altered plant communities throughout much of the globe. In central Kenya’s Laikipia County, olive baboons (Papio anubis) frequently consume O. stricta fruits and subsequently disperse the seeds via defecation. Animal-mediated seed dispersal can increase germination and subsequent survival of plants. However, consumption of seeds (seed predation) by rodents may offset the potential benefits of seed dispersal for cactus establishment by reducing the number of viable seeds. We investigated foraging preferences of a common and widely distributed small mammal—the fringe-tailed gerbil (Gerbilliscus robustus), between O. stricta seeds deposited in baboon faeces versus control O. stricta seeds. In addition to providing evidence of seed predation on O. stricta by G. robustus, our data show that seed removal was higher (shorter time to use) for seeds within faeces than for control seeds. G. robustus clearly prefers seeds within faeces compared to control seeds. These results suggest that high abundances of rodents may limit successful establishment of O. stricta seeds, possibly disrupting seed dispersal via endozoochory by baboons.
Dudenhoeffer, M., & Hodge, A.M. 2018. Opposing forces of seed dispersal and seed predation by mammals for an invasive cactus in Central Kenya. African Journal of Ecology, 56(2), 179-184. https://doi.org/10.1111/aje.12504