The role of carnivores in seed dispersal has only recently been studied in North American plants. We investigated the potential effectiveness of the Coyote (Canis latrans) as a seed disperser for American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana; Ebenaceae) and tested the effect of experimental design in gut passage experiments. Germination percentage and rate and vigor of seedlings produced by D. virginiana seeds collected from Coyote scat were compared to seeds removed from or contained in whole fruit in a common garden experiment. Germination percentages for Coyote ingested seeds and whole fruit were nearly the same. Emergence was significantly faster for seedlings produced from ingested seeds compared to those seeds in whole fruit, however the quality of these seedlings was significantly poorer. Seedlings produced by seeds artificially removed from fruits had greater survival than those resulting from seeds ingested by coyotes or contained in intact fruits. Our results suggest that Coyotes can effectively disperse D. virginiana,but whether the positive aspects of dispersal outweigh the negative effects of gut passage remains an open question. Our experimental results indicate that these two species have not coevolved, as expected, since the range of Coyotes has only recently overlapped substantially with that of D. virginiana.
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Vol. 169 • No. 2