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Seed and fruit predation

Predation to assist dispersal

Many things eat fruits and seeds. In some cases the fruits are specifically attractive and palatable to attract a bird or animal to eat the fruit and consequently disperse and spread the seed, which is suitably protected within a hard part of the fruit. The exotic species Blackberries *Rubus and African Olive *Olea europea subsp. cuspidata have fruits and seeds that are spread in this way by birds and foxes. In their cultivated forms the fruits of both these plants are also eaten by humans.

The red fruits of Einadia hastata and mauve fruits of Eremophila debilis are presumably eaten by birds.

Some species have seeds with a fleshy part (an eleiosome) that is attractive to ants. The ants carry the seed, strip off the fleshy part and then dump the seed, having moved it some distance from the parent plant. Some species of ants however eat the seed as well as the fleshy part.

Destructive predation

Destructive predation on seeds and fruits may be by direct consumption, such as by many birds. To avoid loss of all their seedcrop some species may produce seed over a long period, as predators may only be active for a relatively short time. Other species may produce a lot of seed over a short period, to try to ensure that some will avoid predators.

An interesting parasitic form of seed predation is carried out by some weevils and flies, whereby eggs are laid in the developing fruit, hatch out and eat seeds as they develop within the fruit e.g. Desmodium brachypodum.

Asterisk * indicates exotic species naturalised at the Australian Botanic Garden.

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