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Sprouting as a gardening strategy to obtain superior supplementary food: evidence from a seed-caching marine worm
Zhu, Z.; van Belzen, J.; Hong, T; Kunihiro, T.; Ysebaert, T.; Herman, P.M.J.; Bouma, T.J. (2016). Sprouting as a gardening strategy to obtain superior supplementary food: evidence from a seed-caching marine worm. Ecology 97(12): 3278–3284. https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ecy.1613
In: Ecology. Ecological Society of America: Brooklyn, NY. ISSN 0012-9658, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
Author keywords
    sprouting; gardening; seed-caching; sprout; ragworm; cordgrass; Spartina; seed

Authors  Top 
  • Zhu, Z., more
  • van Belzen, J., more
  • Hong, T
  • Kunihiro, T.

Abstract
    This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. Abstract: Only a handful of non-human animals are known to grow their own food by cultivating high-yield fungal or algal crops as staple food. Here we report an alternative strategy utilized by an omnivorous marine worm Hediste diversicolor to supplement its diet: gardening by sprouting seeds. In addition to having many other known feeding modes, we showed using video recordings and manipulative mesocosm experiments that this species can also behave like gardeners by deliberately burying cordgrass seeds in their burrows, which has been previously shown to reduce the loss of seeds to water. These seeds, however, are protected by the seed husk, and we used feeding experiments to show that they were not edible for H. diversicolor until they had sprouted or the seed husk had been artificially removed. Additionally, sprouts were shown to be highly nutritious, permitting higher growth rates in H. diversicolor than the low-quality basal food, detritus. We propose both a proximate cause (seed husk as a physical barrier) and ultimate cause (nutritional demand) for this peculiar feeding behavior. Our findings suggest that sprouting may be a common strategy used by seed-collecting animals to exploit nutrients from well-protected seeds.

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