Seed Dispersal by Brown Bears, Ursus arctos, in Southeastern Alaska

Mary F. Willson, Scott M. Gende


Mammals often consume fleshy fruits and disperse significant quantities of the enclosed seeds. In southeastern Alaska, Brown Bears (Ursus arctos) are among the most important dispersers of seeds for the numerous plant species producing fleshy fruits, because these bears are abundant, often eat large quantities of fruit, and commonly excrete seeds in germinable condition. Scat analyses showed that Brown Bears on Chichagof Island ate increasing quantities of fruit through summer and fall. Scats commonly contained several thousand seeds, often of two or more species. Four kinds of seeds of fleshyfruited plants that normally grow in forest understory germinated at similar levels when experimentally deposited (in bear scats) in the two most common habitats (forest and muskeg), suggesting that habitat distribution of these plants is not determined simply by germination patterns. Although seed passage through bear digestive tracts and the composition of scats are known to affect germination rates to some degree, the most important role of bears in seed dispersal is probably transport.


Brown Bears; Ursus arctos; Southeastern Alaska; seed dispersal; fleshy fruits; Rubus; Ribes; Oplopanax; Vaccinium; Streptopus

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