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Density-dependent hoarding by rodents contributes to large variation in seed mass of the woodland herb Symplocarpus renifolius

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Abstract:

We analyzed effects of seed-hoarding by rodents on the variation in seed mass and seed success for a perennial forest undergrowth plant — Symplocarpus renifolius Schott ex Miquel — in Hokkaido, northern Japan. Although density of rodents differed greatly between seasons, more rodents were always captured in mesic Sasa sp. patches with dense foliage than in wet Lysichiton sp. patches. In the season with fewer rodents, they cached seeds close to the original places irrespective of vegetation, while in the season with abundant rodents, they transported seeds further and cached seeds disproportionately in Lysichiton patches. Seeds missed by rodents were larger than seeds that were eaten or that survived. Sasa patches are more suitable for seedlings to establish and a size advantage was observed there, but even small seeds could establish in Lysichiton patches, although seedling success was lower. We concluded that maternal plants of Symplocarpus renifolius increase their reproductive success by having small to middle-sized seeds transported to suitable sites while offering larger seeds as rewards to the transporters. Since the variation in seed mass was not correlated with the biomass per seed of the maternal plant, the large variation in seed mass is considered to have evolved through the density-dependent hoarding by rodents.

Nous avons analysé les effets de l’amassement de graines par les rongeurs sur la variation de la masse et du succès de germination des graines de Symplocarpus renifolius Schott ex Miquel, une plante pérenne de sous-bois, à Hokkaido, dans le nord du Japon. Malgré de grandes variations saisonnières dans la densité des rongeurs, le nombre de rongeurs capturés dans les peuplements mésiques à voûte fermée de Sasa sp. était toujours supérieur à celui des peuplements humides de Lysichiton sp. Durant la saison où ils étaient moins abondants, les rongeurs cachaient les graines près du site de cueillette, peu importe la végétation, tandis que durant les saisons d’abondance, ils transportaient les graines plus loin et les cachaient plus souvent dans les peuplements de Lysichiton. Les graines oubliées par les rongeurs étaient plus grosses que celles qui ont été mangées ou qui ont survécu. Les peuplements de Sasa sont plus propices à l’établissement des semis, en particulier à partir de grosses graines, mais même les petites graines pouvaient s’établir dans les peuplements de Lysichiton, bien que le taux de succès fut moindre. Nous avons conclu que les plantes maternelles de Symplocarpus renifolius augmentent leur succès de reproduction via les graines de petite et moyenne tailles qui sont transportées vers les sites propices et en laissant comme récompense les grosses graines aux transporteurs. La variation de la masse des graines n’étant pas corrélée à la biomasse par graine de la plante maternelle, on peut considérer qu’elle a évolué en relation avec l’amassement par les rongeurs qui dépend de la densité de ces derniers.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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