Seeds of several plant species are frequently wasted, if dispersed to unsuitable microsites. Some microsites, such as the interior of large caves, are unsafe for animal-dispersed seeds. However, sometimes a second dispersal agent may give these seeds a second chance of survival, thus playing the role of ‘seed rescuer’. We tested this hypothesis by investigating the seed fate of plant species dispersed by fruit-eating bats in an Amazonian cave and by evaluating whether those seeds could be rescued by a subterranean watercourse. We measured seed arrival at the ground and the watercourse. We also collected seeds coming out of the cave through the watercourse. Banara sp. was the most abundant morphospecies, followed by Cecropia sp., Solanum sp. and Vismia sp. We collected 1,751 seeds of seven morphospecies in water. Cecropia sp. was the most abundant species. Experimental data showed that on average 37% of the seeds of Banara, Vismia, and Cecropia leaving the cave were viable. A second experiment detected differences in the germinability of Cecropia seeds soaked in cave water for one, 10, and 20 days, but the same was not true for Piper seeds. Although caves are unsuitable for plant species dispersed by fruit-eating bats, some seeds may be rescued by nonstandard means of dispersal and dispersed to river margins, where they may germinate and establish themselves.
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Vol. 15 • No. 1