The dispersal of plant seeds in the fur of large herbivores (epizoochory) is an important but complex long-distance
dispersal mechanism. We developed a spatially explicit simulation model of epizoochorous seed dispersal, which was
parameterized based on empirical studies of the movement and behaviour of donkeys, and the distribution, seed
production, seed accessibility, seed adhesion, and seed retention on donkey fur of selected plant species in a coastal
dune nature reserve in Flanders, Belgium. We compared predicted and observed seed numbers of the 14 plant species
on donkey fur.
Modelled seed shadows indicate that for most species about half of all seeds dispersed by donkeys should travel a net
distance of 4100 m, and about 1% should travel 4500m within this more or less isodiametric 100 ha nature reserve.
Seeds with longer retention times are expected to travel further than those with short retention times. Enlarging the
reserve area had little impact on the forecasted dispersal distances.
Variation among plant species in the observed seed numbers found on donkey fur were well predicted by the model
(R2 ¼ 0.56, P ¼ 0.002), though the predictions relied on relatively crude estimates of seed production and accessibility
to donkeys, indicating that more accurate estimates of these parameters are needed.
Our model confirms the important role of epizoochory in affecting long-distance seed dispersal, and provides a
modelling framework for integrating the multiple components of the dispersal process.