Biodiv Sci ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (7): 995-1001.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2020449

• Reviews • Previous Articles    

Dispersal of spore plants by animals: Patterns and evolutionary significance

Qin Wang1, Yuan Chen2, Yang Yu1*(), Zuofu Xiang1*()   

  1. 1 College of Life Science and Technology, Central South University of Forestry and Technology, Changsha 410004
    2 School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275
  • Received:2020-12-05 Accepted:2021-03-09 Online:2021-07-20 Published:2021-05-28
  • Contact: * E-mail:;


Background & Aims: Spore plants, as an important food source for terrestrial animal, play a vital role in maintaining the subtle balance of the earth’s ecological system. Animals and spore plants may also together form an interaction system similar to the network of zoochorous seed dispersal. Therefore, the effect of animals on spore plant propagules dispersal has been receiving increasing attention. Here, we summarize that (1) the adaptation of spore plants to dispersal by animals. On the one hand, spore plants can provide food, shelters and breeding sites for animals; on the other hand, spore plants can also produce visual and/or olfactory cues and so on to attract animals in order to increase their propagule dispersal. (2) the two zoochorous dispersal patterns of spore plants that can effectively disperse propagules of spore plants, namely endozoochory (through the digestive tract and parasitism) and epizoochory. Due to the different morphological characteristics and life habits between animals, the distance of dispersal is also different, with the shortest distance of 0.1 cm and the longest distance from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere. (3) The ecological and evolutionary meanings of zoochorous dispersal of spore plants. For some spore plant propagules, due to their special structural characteristics or particular need for germination, the propagules can only be dispersed by specific animals, which leads to an inseparable relationship between such animals and spore plants.
At present, few studies in this field have been conducted in China. The researches on spore plant dispersal in other countries are mainly descriptive, most of which are independent pattern on spore plant dispersal.
Prospects: We propose that more consideration should be given to the multi-pattern dispersal and mutualistic relationship between animals and spore plants in future studies, as well as the formation, maintenance mechanism and future evolutionary trends of spore plant-animal relationships.

Key words: spore plants, zoochorous dispersal, mutualistic relationship, vegetation regeneration, biodiversity conservation