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Mistletoe dispersal - birds

Dispersal range

Mistletoe Bird
Mistletoe Bird

Mistletoe birds are nomadic, moving from one mistletoe population to another as fruits become available. But because the seed passes through the bird quickly, and because the birds do not undertake sustained flight, the dispersal range of the mistletoe is normally limited. The great majority of mistletoe species have strongly continental distributions, and this has significance for the world geography of mistletoes (see section on mistletoes and southern hemisphere biogeography).

As an example, it might be noted that there are presently no mistletoe birds or mistletoes in Tasmania, although the fossil pollen record shows continued mistletoe presence there from late Early Eocene to 120,000 years ago. Mistletoes were presumably eliminated during the last Ice Age, and have not recolonized Tasmania since its last isolation from mainland Australia by the most recent formation of Bass Strait some 15,000 years ago.

Written by Bryan Barlow, updated 1 December, 2011 by webmaster, ANBG (