Role of Brycinus lateralis (Teleostei: Alestidae) in dispersal and germination of Nymphaea nouchali (Angiospermae: Nymphaeaceae) seeds on a seasonal floodplain of the Okavango Delta, Botswana
Seed passage through the gut of vertebrates can be important for seed dispersal, but might influence seed viability. The ability of seeds to germinate after ingestion by seed-eating fish is important for the population dynamics of some plant species, and significant in the evolution of plant–fish interactions. Certain fish in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, are fruit- and seed-eaters and could act as seed dispersers. We sampled 14 fish species in 2013, finding Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea seeds in the digestive tracts of eight, most commonly in the striped robber Brycinus lateralis. Seeds extracted from the gut of this species had an overall mean germination success of 11.7%. This fish species might well be a legitimate seed disperser, having a positive effect on seed dispersal from parent plants in the Okavango Delta. The current study represents one of the first investigations of the likelihood of seed dispersal by fish on the African continent.
Keywords: digestive tract, frugivore, seed germination, seed ingestion, seed passage