Date of Graduation

Summer 2016


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

D. Alexander Wait


Cervidae, Ozarks, endozoochory, invasive, dispersal, richness

Subject Categories



Movement of plant seeds can be facilitated by endozoochory in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and elk (Cervus elaphus), but at rates that are unknown in natural systems. Spread of planted forage crops into wildlands, or nonnative invasive weeds into food plots would affect ecosystem processes and management costs. To address endozoochory, collections of fecal pellets from both ungulate species were done at the Current River Conservation Area in Southeastern Missouri. Randomly chosen individual pellets collected from nine food plots were planted in a greenhouse setting. After cold stratification of pellets (2°C at 15 days), pellets were either left whole or broken apart to simulate natural decomposition or weathering. Significantly more seeds germinated from pellets which were broken apart, indicating some decomposition may be an important factor for germination from fecal pellets. Data supports studies showing spread of plant species by deer and elk, both nonnative and native. Both species more successfully dispersed viable seed from nonnative species throughout the study; however, no native forage species germinated from elk pellets. Seeds of plants consumed by these wild ungulate species may contribute to same-season growth of invasive plant species, which will certainly result in novel seed banks via this dispersal mechanism.


© Andrew Jordan Spychalla

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