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Birds as seed dispersers in deserts: suggestions from the ground-jays

Published: 3 April 2021
Avian Research , Volume 12, pp 1-4; doi:10.1186/s40657-021-00248-7

Abstract: The study of seed dispersal, biotic seed dispersal, and even less, the role of birds in it, have been almost neglected in deserts. Virtually absent from the literature on seed dispersal are the ground-jays, genus Podoces, four species of the crow family that inhabit arid environments, even true deserts, from Iran to Mongolia. Although they are omnivorous, they seem to mainly depend on the seeds of desert plants during the cold season. There are suggestions in sparse literature that they may contribute to seed dispersal similarly to several corvid species of other climates, by caching seeds in useful microsites to save them for later consumption and thus actually favoring the germination of the seeds they fail to recover. Future research might benefit from comparison with the vast literature on their better-known seed-caching relatives. This paper is aimed at providing basic information on each ground-jay species and some suggestions for investigating their likely symbiosis with desert plants, with possible applications to the maintenance and restoration of vegetation in a very extended arid zone.
Keywords: Central Asia / Desert birds / Podoces ground-jays / Seed dispersal / Synzoochory

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