Seagrass-grazing dugongs and green sea turtles supercharge the seeds they eat

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By consuming and pooping seagrass seeds, dugongs and green turtles play a vital role in maintaining vital, carbon-sequestering seagrass meadows, a new study reveals. Scientists working in the Great Barrier Reef found that seagrass seeds germinated up to 60% faster after they had passed through the gut of dugongs or green turtles, and also had two to four times greater germination probability. The research highlights the mutual relationship between seagrass and marine mega herbivores, and underscores the shared vulnerability if either party is undermined. Experts say we must do what we can to protect dugongs, turtles and other grazing marine animals if we wish to protect seagrass ecosystems and their many benefits. For decades, scientists speculated that seagrass seeds served only as a backup to vegetative proliferation; they settled into the sand beneath their parent plants, ready to germinate if anything untoward befell the living meadow. But according to findings published recently in Biotropica , the tiny seeds can disperse over hundreds of miles, and thereafter can germinate rapidly. However, they must first suffer the indignity of being ingested and pooped out by dugongs ( Dugong dugong ) or green sea turtles ( Chelonia mydas ). The new research […]

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