Differential foraging preferences on seed size by rodents result in higher dispersal success of medium-sized seeds

Journal: Ecology

Published: 2016-11-01

DOI: 10.1002/ecy.1555

Affiliations: 4

Authors: 6

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Research Highlight

Super-sizing not the way to go for seedling success

© Alan Tunnicliffe Photography/Moment/Getty

© Alan Tunnicliffe Photography/Moment/Getty

Seeds spread by scatter-hoarding rodents follow the Goldilocks principle, with middle-sized seeds proving just right for long-term dispersal success.

Researchers from Sichuan University with collaborators elsewhere in China tracked the dispersal of seeds from the tropical Pittosporopsis kerrii plant in the Xishuangbanna forest of Yunnan Province over a five-year period. In the early stages of the study, small rodents, including white-bellied rats and red spiny rats, first ate the small seeds and saved the larger seeds for later. But, toward the end of the investigation, when the smaller seeds had run out, the rodents started eating the larger seeds they had hoarded for sustenance and energy.

As a result, the medium-sized seeds scattered but not consumed by the rodents ended up producing the most seedlings — a demonstration of the conflicting selective pressures on seed size.

The findings, reported in the journal Ecology, contradict conventional wisdom that larger seeds always yield higher dispersal success.

Supported content

  1. Ecology 97, 3070–3078 (2016). doi: 10.1002/ecy.1555
Institutions FC WFC
State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents, IOZ CAS, China 0.39 0.39
Center for Integrative Conservation, XTBG CAS, China 0.22 0.22
MOE Key Laboratory of Bio-Resources and Eco-Environment, SCU, China 0.22 0.22
College of Life Sciences, JXNU, China 0.17 0.17