Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology
Between 40 and 90% of plant species, depending upon the region, produce a fleshy fruit and who eats the fruit can determine the outcome of a plant species’ survival. Passage through an organism's gut can strip the fruit or seed coat from a seed, and thus increase germination. Or, conversely, long retention times within a gut could damage the seed and decrease viability. Typically, to evaluate the impact of frugivores on seed viability and germination, studies conduct a feeding trial by feeding fruit to a frugivore, collecting seeds from the animal’s feces, and then attempt to germinate the seeds and compare their germination rates with a control group of seeds that was not ingested. Here, we review existing studies on the effects of ingestion by frugivores on the germination of seeds. We will evaluate the ecosystems in which these studies have occurred as well as the species that have been tested. Finally, we will assess whether ingestion by frugivores has an overall positive or negative effect on seed germination, and how this varies by region and frugivore type.