A global systematic review of frugivorous animal tracking studies and the estimation of seed dispersal distances



Fell A, Silva T, Duthie A & Dent D (2023) A global systematic review of frugivorous animal tracking studies and the estimation of seed dispersal distances. Ecology and Evolution, 13 (11), Art. No.: e10638.

Seed dispersal is one of the most important ecosystem functions globally. It shapes plant populations, enhances forest succession, and has multiple, indirect benefits for humans, yet it is one of the most threatened processes in plant regeneration, worldwide. Seed dispersal distances are determined by the diets, seed retention times and movements of frugivorous animals. Hence, understanding how we can most effectively describe frugivore movement and behaviour with rapidly developing animal tracking technology is key to quantifying seed dispersal. To assess the current use of animal tracking in frugivory studies and to provide a baseline for future studies, we provide a comprehensive review and synthesis on the existing primary literature of global tracking studies that monitor movement of frugivorous animals. Specifically, we identify studies that estimate dispersal distances and how they vary with body mass and environmental traits. We show that over the last two decades there has been a large increase in frugivore tracking studies that determine seed dispersal distances. However, some taxa (e.g. reptiles) and geographic locations (e.g. Africa and Central Asia) are poorly studied. Furthermore, we found that certain morphological and environmental traits can be used to predict seed dispersal distances. We demonstrate that flight ability and increased body mass both significantly increase estimated seed dispersal mean and maximum distances. Our results also suggest that protected areas have a positive effect on mean seed dispersal distances when compared to unprotected areas. We anticipate that this review will act as a reference for future frugivore tracking studies, specifically to target current taxonomic and geographic data gaps, and to further explore how seed dispersal relates to key frugivore and fruit traits.

animal behaviour; animal movement; frugivore; GPS transmitter; radio transmitter; seed dispersal; tracking

Ecology and Evolution: Volume 13, Issue 11

FundersNatural Environment Research Council
Publication date30/11/2023
Publication date online31/10/2023
Date accepted by journal08/10/2023

People (3)


Dr Brad Duthie

Dr Brad Duthie

Lecturer in Environmental Modelling, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Mr Adam Fell

Mr Adam Fell

Tutor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Dr Thiago Silva

Dr Thiago Silva

Senior Lecturer, Biological and Environmental Sciences