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Faecal mimicry by seeds ensures dispersal by dung beetles


The large brown, round, strongly scented seeds of Ceratocaryum argenteum (Restionaceae) emit many volatiles found to be present in herbivore dung. These seeds attract dung beetles that roll and bury them. As the seeds are hard and offer no reward to the dung beetles, this is a remarkable example of deception in plant seed dispersal.

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Figure 1: The similarities between C. argenteum seeds and a dung pellet and dissimilarities with other nut seeds.
Figure 2: Comparisons of volatile emissions among seeds and large mammal droppings that indicate the similarity of C. argenteum to the dung of some herbivores.

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We thank T. Hoekstra of CapeNature for permission to work in Potberg and H.P. Linder, W.J. Bond, B. Anderson, S.-L. Steenhuisen, N. Hobbhahn, M. Cramer and J. Hoffman for comments on the manuscript. P. Muller provided assistance with photographs and SEM. We thank the NRF for funding.

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J.J.M. initiated the study and together with J.D.M.W. and G.N.B. did the field work. S.D.J. did the scent and statistical analysis. All four contributed to manuscript writing.

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Correspondence to Jeremy J. Midgley.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Midgley, J., White, J., Johnson, S. et al. Faecal mimicry by seeds ensures dispersal by dung beetles. Nature Plants 1, 15141 (2015).

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