Evidence of mutualistic synzoochory between cryptogams and hummingbirds

Felipe Osorio-Zuñiga, Francisco E. Fontúrbel, Håkan Rydin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Endozoochory is usually involved in seed dispersal mutualisms, whereas ectozoochory is non-rewarding, and therefore neutral (or even negative) for the animal vector. Synzoochory is an intermediate dispersal type between endo and ectozoochory in which propagules are deliberately transported (usually in the mouth) but with no ingestion or gut passage involved. We present empirical evidence of synzoochoric mutualism between the hummingbird Sephanoides sephaniodes and cryptogams (one fern and seven moss species). Two species (Lophosoria quadripinnata and Ancistrodes genuflexa) constituted the bulk of nest biomass, and another six moss species were present in lesser quantity. The hummingbird was selective when collecting nest material so that the nests contained a higher density of reproductive structures (that could be dispersed further) than natural patches of the cryptogam species. Even after one year, the nests maintained half of the original reproductive structures (sporangia, sporophytes) and biomass, constituting an important dispersal source. These results show a new type of mutualism in which mosses could be dispersed throughout longer distances (several km) by hummingbirds and to higher positions (particularly for ground-living species, promoting dispersal potential). The hummingbird benefits from collecting cryptogam material for nest building, and cryptogams benefit from the concentration and relocation of diaspore sources into more effective recruiting sites. Similar mutualistic relationships could be a general phenomenon, of importance in many ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-558
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


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