Waterbirds as endozoochorous dispersers of aquatic organisms: A review of experimental evidence

Iris Charalambidou, Luis Santamaría

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

110 Citations (Scopus)


It is commonly assumed that waterbirds act as dispersal vectors of aquatic organisms. In this paper we review experimental work focusing on the endozoochorous transport of propagules by waterbirds with the aim to determine what aspects of this mechanism have been investigated. We discuss (i) the main issues addressed in propagule feeding experiments, (ii) aspects of the gut structure that affect the retrieval, retention time and viability of propagules, and (iii) the importance of assessing propagule retention time in the gut. A total of 26 experimental studies exist, which represent a very low number when compared to studies of seed dispersal in terrestrial systems, The diversity of questions dealt with in these articles was low, with the majority focusing exclusively on whether propagules survive gut passage. More comparative studies involving batches of disperser and dispersed species should be carried out, also to establish whether they possess characteristics that favour endozoochorous transport. It is important to assess the effect of intra- and inter-specific variation in the different sections of the waterbird gut on the fate of propagules. Additionally, experimental work dealing with the mechanism of endozoochorous dispersal can be separated into a sequence of events. Each event is characterised by its own probability of occurrence. In most studies, complete data sets relating to every step of the process have not been collected. In order to quantify dispersal probabilities of propagules such data are necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-176
Number of pages12
JournalActa Oecologica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Dispersal
  • Endozoochory
  • Germination
  • Gut passage
  • Gut structure
  • Hatching
  • Resting egg
  • Retention time
  • Seed
  • Viability
  • Waterfowl


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