African Savanna Ecology

ENV 323/623 at Kruger National Park, South Africa

Seed Disperser or Seed Predator?

One of the experiments students conducted was exploring the distance a seed is for a squirrel to be a seed disperser or predator. Marula nuts are a fan favorite among squirrels in South Africa. These squirrels practice scatter hoarding where they hide food in a bunch of places within their territory. The scattered burial of seeds helps disperse marula nuts, in this case the squirrel is a disperser. Additionally though, the squirrel may eat the nut, then it becomes a predator. To look at when the squirrel is a predator vs disperser students covered seeds in UV powder, attached strings, and set them different distances from an already standing marula tree. At night, they returned and shined a UV light to locate the buried, moved, and eaten seeds. What an exciting time it was to find a buried seed!