Although spores from most macrofungi are wind- or water-dispersed, dispersal may also occur via biotic vectors. The Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is a facultative mycovore that may play an important role in fungal spore dispersal although, to date, no information exists on fungi occurring in fecal samples of box turtles or on the ecological significance of box turtles as spore dispersal vectors. Consequently, a study of the potential for Eastern box turtles to act as vectors for spore dispersal was initiated by capturing wild turtles and collecting fecal samples. Serial dilutions from fecal samples were made to enumerate spores, quantify the number of spores per gram of fecal material and to isolate and identify fungi. Fungal spores were found to be extremely abundant throughout all samples. Fecal samples from 36 turtles yielded a total of 23 different fungal taxa in the Zygomycota, Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Two yeasts that were isolated, Cryptococcus albidus and Rhodotorula mucilaginosa, are reported to naturally occur on Trifolium seeds found in fecal samples. A mold previously unreported from fecal material, Aspergillus wentii, was also found in fecal samples. Data collected suggests Eastern box turtles influence fungal spore dispersal by browsing on plant materials and defecating large numbers of fungal spores within their home ranges.
Jones, S.; Jordan, W.; Meiners, Scott; Miller, A.; and Methven, A., "Fungal Spore Dispersal by the Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)" (2006). Faculty Research & Creative Activity. 442.