Review of Fruit-Frugivore Interactions

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Karnish, Alexander
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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.

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.