Rodent Removal of Fallen Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Fruits
Borchert , Mark I.
MetadataShow full item record
Abstract.—Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) produce large, indehiscent fruits that contain numerous large seeds. Seed dispersal in this species depends on rodents to dismantle fruits and extract the seeds which they disperse tens of meters from the source. Using camera trapping and fruits equipped with bobbins, I show that white-tailed antelope squirrels (Ammospermophilus leucurus) and kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spp.) moved intact, fallen fruits 6 to 7 m from trees before opening them. Pocket mice (Chaetodipus fallax and Perognathus longimembris) and pinyon mice (Peromyscus trueii) dismantled fruits in situ and harvested loose seeds but did not appear to move them. However, they readily harvested loose seeds. Mobilizing fruits may be an important, overlooked step in the seed dispersal process, especially if the fruits are indehiscent. Fruit-carrying behavior of rodents described in this study adds to the dispersal distance of Joshua tree seeds.