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Synchrony between fruit maturation and effective dispersers' foraging activity increases seed protection against seed predators

AuthorsBoulay, Raphaël; Carro, Francisco ; Soriguer, Ramón C. ; Cerdá, Xim
Issue Date2007
PublisherRoyal Society (Great Britain)
CitationProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274: 2515- 2522 (2007)
AbstractThe evolution of pollination and seed dispersal mutualisms is conditioned by the spatial and temporal co-occurrence of animals and plants. In the present study we explore the timing of seed release of a myrmecochorous plant (Helleborus foetidus) and ant activity in two populations in southern Spain during 2 consecutive years. The results indicate that fruit dehiscence and seed shedding occur mostly in the morning and correspond to the period of maximum foraging activity of the most effective ant dispersers. By contrast, ant species that do not transport seeds and/or that do not abound near the plants are active either before or after H. foetidus diaspores are released. Experimental analysis of diet preference for three kinds of food shows that effective ant dispersers are mostly scavengers that readily feed on insect corpses and sugars. Artificial seed depots suggest that seeds deposited on the ground out of the natural daily time window of diaspore releasing are not removed by ants and suffer strong predation by nocturnal rodents Apodemus sylvaticus. Nevertheless, important inter-annual variations in rodent populations cast doubts on their real importance as selection agents. We argue that traits allowing synchrony between seed presentation and effective partners may constitute a crucial pre-adaptation for the evolution of plant-animal mutualisms involving numerous animal partners. © 2007 The Royal Society.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1098/rspb.2007.0594
issn: 0962-8452
Appears in Collections:(EBD) Artículos
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