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Ecology of fruit-colour polymorphism in Myrtus communis and differential effects of birds and mammals on seed germination and seedling growth

AuthorsTraveset, Anna CSIC ORCID ; Riera, M.; Mas, R. E.
Issue Date2001
PublisherBlackwell Publishing
CitationJournal of Ecology 89: 749- 760 (2001)
Abstract1. The fruit-colour polymorphism of Myrtus communis, a common Mediterranean shrub, is examined. We investigate whether frugivores affect the maintenance of the polymorphism, whether morphs differ in germination or seedling growth, and whether passage through frugivores' gut affects seed behaviour and seedling growth. 2. Blue berries are very similar in morphological traits and nutrient composition to the rarer white morph. Rates of fruit removal by birds, the main dispersers of this species, did not differ between morphs, suggesting that a colour preference is not involved in maintenance of the polymorphism. 3. Seeds of the two morphs showed the same germinability (final percentage germination) as well as similar rates of germination under controlled conditions (in growth chamber and greenhouse). Outdoors, seeds from blue berries tended to germinate slightly faster (which might give them an early advantage) but differences between morphs disappeared after several weeks of growth. 4. The germination of myrtle seeds is differently affected by passage through the digestive tract of birds, which appeared to significantly increase germinability, and of the carnivorous pine marten, Martes martes, which did not. The different seed retention time in the gut or the chemical composition of the food ingested along with the seeds may be responsible for such differences. 5. The detection of a positive effect of bird ingestion in outdoor conditions, but not in the growth chamber or in the greenhouse, demonstrates the importance of performing germination tests in the natural habitat. 6. Seed size, irrespective of morph, affects the response to passage through the bird gut. Large seeds, which are more rapidly ejected, and are thus less abraded, germinated at a similar speed to non-ingested controls. Variation in seed size within a single species should thus be considered in future studies.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1046/j.0022-0477.2001.00585.x
issn: 0022-0477
Appears in Collections:(IMEDEA) Artículos

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