Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 25–44

Seed dispersal curves: Behavior of the tail of the distribution

  • Stephen Portnoy
  • Mary F. Willson


Seed dispersal is important both to plant fitness and to plant population structure. We suggest that the tail of the seed dispersal curve is at least as important biologically as the modal portion of the curve, and we present a relatively simple, four-parameter model, based on diffusion principles, for the tail of the seed distribution. This model includes two types of qualitative behavior: algebraic tails (which tend to be longer and have greater ‘reach’) and exponential tails (which are shorter and have less ‘reach’). We have selected 68 data sets from the literature, each giving a seed shadow that could be categorized statistically as (1) exponential, (2) algebraic, (3) neither, or (4) both models fit adequately. Algebraic shapes for seed-shadow tails were common in this sample, and tail behavior was not generally specific to a particular dispersal mode. This result may suggest that algebraic tails are generally favored by selection and can be achieved by several means, but limitations of existing data sets and of statistical methodology preclude final judgement. Smaller complete samples of seed distances would provide a better basis for the analysis of tails than do the present form of data sets (consisting of counts of seeds in discrete distance categories).


seed shadows distribution tail diffusion process 


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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Portnoy
    • 1
  • Mary F. Willson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of StatisticsUniversity of IllinoisChampaignUSA
  2. 2.Forestry Sciences LaboratoryJuneauUSA

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