Nuts go furthest with the early bird

August 17, 2011 By Roel Neijts

Toucans in the tropics disperse nutmegs the furthest in the morning, according to research by Wageningen UR ecologist Patrick Jansen.

Imagine that you are a wild nutmeg tree in South America and you want to give your descendents a good start in life. What would you do? The best method would be to discharge the nuts in the morning and make sure that they travel for about an hour in the crop of a hungry toucan. The nuts will then have the best chances of ending up as far away from the mother tree as possible.

Wild nutmeg trees in South America depend mainly on toucans for . These birds are crazy about these fruits. Not for the nut itself, but for its outer pulp, called mace. That bright red casing is full of fats and proteins. After peeling away the casing, the bird regurgitates the seed.

A lot has already been known about this way of seed dispersal. However, one thing remains unsuccessful: to determine how far toucans disperse these seeds. Tracking birds in a thick forest is practically impossible. Until now. Jansen (Center for Ecosystem Studies) and colleagues followed the daily movements of toucans in Panama by hanging on them backpacks with equipment. A maps the location and an indicates clearly when the bird is eating.

Subsequently in Artis, a zoo in Amsterdam, it was determined how long it takes before a toucan regurgitates a processed seed. When these details are matched, the dispersal chances of seeds can be calculated. It has been estimated that seeds are dispersed an average of 144 metres from the mother tree. One out of five seeds travels 200 metres and some even make it to a kilometre. By the way, toucans fly the furthest in the morning.

Explore further: Mode of seed dispersal greatly shapes placement of rainforest trees

Related Stories

Overfished Amazon fish disperse seeds long distances

April 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The gamitana fish, a close relative of the flesh-eating piranha, mostly eats fruit and can carry seeds down the Amazon River as far as 3 miles (5 kilometers), reports a new Cornell study, making it one of ...

Recommended for you

New lizard named after Sir David Attenborough

August 3, 2015

A research team led by Dr Martin Whiting from the Department of Biological Sciences recently discovered a beautifully coloured new species of flat lizard, which they have named Platysaurus attenboroughi, after Sir David Attenborough.

A look at living cells down to individual molecules

August 3, 2015

EPFL scientists have been able to produce footage of the evolution of living cells at a nanoscale resolution by combining atomic force microscopy and an a super resolution optical imaging system that follows molecules that ...

Researchers design first artificial ribosome

July 29, 2015

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University have engineered a tethered ribosome that works nearly as well as the authentic cellular component, or organelle, that produces all the proteins ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.