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Seed recovery and germination rate after gut passage by Korean water deer (Hydropotes inermis argyropus)
Seed Science Research  (IF2.25),  Pub Date : 2021-12-17, DOI: 10.1017/s0960258521000246
Seung-Kyung Lee, Woo-Jin Shin, Sangjin Ahn, Youngeun Kim, Jong-Taek Kim, Eun Ju Lee

Large herbivores can disperse seeds over long distances through endozoochory. The Korean water deer (Hydropotes inermis argyropus), an internationally vulnerable species but locally considered a vermin, is a potential endozoochorous seed dispersal vector. In this study, feeding experiments were conducted to test the efficiency of seed dispersal through gut ingestion by the Korean water deer, its temporal pattern and the effect of gut passage on seed recovery and germination rate. Eight plant species, including species that formerly germinated from its faeces, were used to feed three Korean water deer. Once the deer had consumed all the provided seeds, their faeces were collected after 24, 48, 72 and 96 h. The collected faeces were air-dried, and the number of seeds retrieved from the faeces was counted every 24 h (0–24, 24–48, 48–72 and 72–96 h). Among the eight plant species, six species were retrieved with intact seeds. Panicum bisulcatum had the highest recovery rate of 33.7%, followed by Amaranthus mangostanus (24.5%) and Chenopodium album (14.4%). Most of the seeds were recovered within the 24–48 h time interval. Germination tests were conducted on the ingested and uningested seeds for the four species which had a sufficient recovery rate. The effects of gut passage on seed germination differed according to plant species. The germination rate substantially decreased after gut passage. The results suggest that the Korean water deer can disperse seeds, potentially over long distances albeit at a high cost of low seed recovery and germination rate.