Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wild Grapes - Post Consumption

When I earlier discussed the abundance of wild grapes ripening at Blue Jay Barrens, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before the local wildlife began consuming them. Here’s unmistakable evidence of a hearty meal of grapes. I guess some animal found them to be an irresistible attractant.

Some of the fruits appear to be almost intact. Apparently, there was more swallowing than chewing activity on the part of this diner. It’s interesting what a superficial job many animals do of digesting their food. Their digestive systems seem designed to break down and absorb the most easily obtained materials and then pass the rest on through.

That doesn’t mean it goes to waste. A multitude of creatures are at the ready to take advantage of materials expelled by other animals. A bath in digestive juices breaks down many compounds into simpler forms that are more easily utilized. Many species are dependent on manure as a food source and would perish if it weren’t available. A species with a highly efficient digestive process would deprive others of a much needed food supply.

We don’t want to overlook the seeds that resided within the grapes. A long emersion in digestive acids might destroy their viability. A little acid sketching of the seed coat however, makes those seeds ready to germinate and produce new plants. That pile of grape waste was dropped into this small grove of trees. At present, no grape vines grow here. There’s now the potential for a mass of vines to make their home in the canopies of these trees.

Is the grove of trees destined to become a grape vine thicket? It’s possible, but the seeds are far from secure. There are still the vagaries of weather and soil conditions that the seeds must endure. That many seeds all germinating in the same place will create a fierce competition for growing space that could end in the death of all seedlings. There are also additional seed predators that may find the grape seeds a suitable meal. Just above the pile is a cozy squirrel nest. I bet a handful of grape seeds would make a nice winter snack for a hungry squirrel.

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