Biotic dispersal in seagrass seeds… new paper!

Just came across a great wee paper by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, examining dispersal of eelgrass (Zostera marina) seeds through biotic mechanisms.  Basically, they found that the seeds of this seagrass species can actually pass through the guts of marine animals like fish and turtles and still be viable to germinate, much like happens with many terrestrial plant species (think of many of the fruits that you eat!).   Another reminder of the similarities between seagrasses and terrestrial angiosperms!

Now you may be thinking…so why is this important?  Well, it turns out that from an ecological point of view this is exceptionally important, as it may allow the seagrass seeds  to travel to (and eventually colonise) otherwise bare areas that would be too far away for seeds to reach through normal dispersal mechanisms (such as transport with water currents).  To get a more detailed overview of dispersal in seagrasses as a whole, there is a great paper published in Bioscience (Robert Orth is a co-author on this paper as well, as are a few people from my research group).  This paper comes to the conclusion that dispersal of seagrass seeds over long distances (10s -100s km) through mechanisms like biotic dispersal is extremely important to the maintenance of seagrass populations!

All in all some really cool stuff that’s helping shape the way we monitor and conserve seagrass meadows, which form the basis of coastal ecosystems in many parts of the world.


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