Can camels disperse seeds of the invasive tree Prosopis juliflora?
Endozoochory has been recognised as the most important dispersal mechanism in invasive Prosopis species, because their sugary, tasty pods attract animals and because some of their seeds remain intact after passing through some animals' digestive systems. In this study, we evaluated the role of the camel (Camelus dromedarius) as a potential disperser of the seeds of invasive tree Prosopis juliflora. Four camels of similar weight (ca. 400 kg) and age (ca. 2 years) were each fed with 70 fruits (1000 seeds approximately) of P. juliflora, which were retrieved from the camels' dung at 24-h intervals for 4 days. The seeds retrieved were tested for germination and viability, along with seeds not eaten by the camels, with and without pericarp. Less than 3% of the seeds eaten were retrieved from the camels' dung. Most of the seeds (74%) were retrieved between 24 and 72 h after ingestion. The passage through the camel gut significantly accelerated and increased seed germination of P. juliflora in comparison with uneaten seeds covered with pericarp (48-75% and 15% respectively). While gut passage liberated P. juliflora seeds from the pericarp, increasing and accelerating their germination, the viability of seeds which had not germinated after germination trials were decreased (ca. ∼20%) relative to uneaten seeds that had also not germinated. Our results show that, despite the low recorded seed recovery, camels can potentially disperse seeds of P. juliflora, which is in line with field observation showing P. juliflora expansion along the camels' routes in Gebel Elba National Park, south-east Egypt.