A study of bears and berries has determined that the big animals are the main dispersers of fruit seeds in southeast Alaska.
The study by Oregon State University researchers says it’s the first instance of a temperate plant being primarily dispersed by mammals through their excrement rather than by birds.
Researcher Taal Levi says seed dispersal is a key component in the understanding of any ecosystem.
He says brown and black bears thrive on Alaska’s Panhandle because of abundant salmon but both feed on berries while they wait for spawning fish to enter streams.
Researchers used motion-triggered video cameras and samples of saliva left on plants to determine whether bears or birds were eating more berries and dispersing seeds through excrement.
Levi says bears consumed and excreted far more seeds.