The effect of bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) dispersal on seed germination in eastern Mediterranean habitats
The fruit-bat Rousettus aegyptiacus (Pteropodidae) in Israel consumes a variety of cultivated and wild fruits. The aim of this study was to explore some of its qualities as a dispersal agent for six fruit-bearing plant species. The feeding roosts of the fruit-bat are located an average of 30 m from its feeding trees and thus the bats disperse the seeds away from the shade of the parent canopy. The bat spits out large seeds but may pass some (2%) of the small seeds (<4 >mg) through its digestive tract. However, neither the deposited seeds nor the ejected seeds (except in one case) had a significantly higher percentage germinating than intact seeds. Although the fruit-bat did not increase the percentage germinating, seeds of three plant species subject to different feeding behaviors (deposited in feces or spat out as ejecta) had a different temporal pattern of germination from the intact seeds. The combined seed germination distribution generated by these different treatments is more even over time than for each treatment alone. It is sugested that this increases asynchronous germination and therefore enhances plant fitness by spreading the risks encountered during germination, especially in eastern Mediterranean habitats where the pattern of rainfall is unpredictable.