The Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) is considered anachronistic because it has no known seed disperser. However, anecdotal observations suggest squirrels (Sciurus spp.) may act as dispersers as they move fruits away from parent plants and through the prolonged handling time required to access the seeds. Our aim was to determine if squirrels potentially disperse Osage orange seeds in this manner by presenting Osage orange seeds and fruits in the presence and absence of sunflower seeds (whole and shelled), which squirrels are known to consume readily. We found, although squirrels preferred sunflower seeds, they readily consumed the Osage orange seeds and moved the fruits when multiple food sources were available. However, when fruits were presented alone, we found a small number of fruits were moved and these were moved only a short distance. Our results suggest that while squirrels occasionally show interest in Osage orange fruits, they do not typically disperse M. pomifera seeds via fruit handling. We therefore conclude anecdotal observations of squirrels feeding on seeds represent uncommon events, supporting the hypothesis that M. pomifera is anachronistic.
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