Responses of a scatter-hoarding rodent to seed morphology links between seed choices and seed variability
Munoz Alberto; Bonal Raul; Maria Espelta Josep
Animal Behaviour 84(6): 1435-1442
Seed preferences of scatter-hoarding granivores may influence the evolution of seed traits in plants. However, there is little evidence linking the granivores' responses to specific seed traits to the variability of seeds in a single plant species. This information is essential for understanding how the decisions of granivores can shape plant life histories. We analysed how seed morphology (size and shape) of the Holm oak, Quercus ilex, influences seed choices of the seed-disperser, the Algerian mouse, Mus spretus. We studied the seed variability of the oak and whether the frequency of seed phenotypes matched the seed choices of the disperser. The probabilities of seed removal decreased as the seeds became larger and more bullet-shaped, so that seeds that were simultaneously large and bullet-shaped had the lowest probabilities of being dispersed. These seeds are probably refused by rodents because they impose higher handling and transport costs. The size and shape of the Holm oak seeds were highly variable between trees, but extraordinarily consistent within a single tree over different years. However, the analysis of seed variability revealed a disproportionately low frequency of large bullet-shaped phenotypes, which are those barely removed by rodents. Seed preferences of dispersers of species with high seed variability between trees can lead to differences in the chances of seeds produced by different trees being dispersed. Those seed phenotypes preferred by dispersers could make a higher contribution to the next generation, which could influence the evolution and variability of seeds in a plant species.