Plant-seed predator interactions – ecological and evolutionary aspects
Plant-animal interactions are affected by both abundance and distribution of interacting species and the community context in which they occur. However, the relative importance of these factors is poorly known. I examined the effects of predator host range, environmental factors, host plant populations, plant traits and fruit abortion on the intensity of pre-dispersal seed predation in 46 host populations of the perennial herb Lathyrus vernus. I recorded damage by beetle pre-dispersal seed predators, mainly Apion opeticum and Bruchus atomarius with different host ranges on L. vernus as well as on two additional host plants. Local seed predator population size was mainly influenced by plant population size, current seed production and beetle population size in the previous year, but was not strongly affected by connectivity. The monophagous seed predator was less abundant and had lower densities than the oligophagous. Both predator species had a strong ability to track fluctuations in seed production; intensity of predation increased with relative increases in seed production. Oligophagous predation on L. vernus increased with the abundance of alternative hosts, but presence of L. vernus did not affect predation on alternative hosts. Abundances and trait preferences differed among three co-occurring seed predators, but were also associated with the abundance of the other species. Overall, seed predation influenced selection on flower number. I found clear indications of seed predator offence but no obvious plant defence. The pattern of fruit abortion was associated with reduced plant fitness since the seed predator had an advanced ability to locate fruits with high probability of retention. Taken together, different factors influencing abundance of the seed predator species, different preferences, and context dependent trait selection are likely to result in complex spatio-temporal variation in overall seed losses and trait selection in the common host plant.
Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation
Keywords:NATURAL SCIENCES; Biology; apparent competition; community context; fruit abortion; defence; host range; monophagous; offence; oligophagous; plant-animal interactions; pre-dispersal seed predation; selection; spatio-temporal variation; växtekologi; Plant Ecology
Date of Publication:01/01/2008