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Title: Mast seeding promotes evolution of scatter-hoarding
Many plant species worldwide are dispersed by scatter-hoarding granivores: animals that hide seeds in numerous, small caches for future consumption. Yet, the evolution of scatter-hoarding is difficult to explain because undefended caches are at high risk of pilferage. Previous models have attempted to solve this problem by giving cache owners large advantages in cache recovery, by kin selection, or by introducing reciprocal pilferage of ‘shared’ seed resources. However, the role of environmental variability has been so far overlooked in this context. One important form of such variability is masting, which is displayed by many plant species dispersed by scatterhoarders. We use a mathematical model to investigate the influence of masting on the evolution of scatter-hoarding. The model accounts for periodically varying annual seed fall, caching and pilfering behaviour, and the demography of scatterhoarders. The parameter values are based mostly on research on European beech ( Fagus sylvatica ) and yellow-necked mice ( Apodemus flavicollis ). Starvation of scatterhoarders between mast years decreases the population density that enters masting events, which leads to reduced seed pilferage. Satiation of scatterhoarders during mast events lowers the reproductive cost of caching (i.e. the cost of caching for the future rather than using seeds for current reproduction). These reductions promote the evolution of scatter-hoarding behaviour especially when interannual variation in seed fall and the period between masting events are large. This article is part of the theme issue ‘The ecology and evolution of synchronized seed production in plants’.  more » « less
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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  2. Summary

    Annually variable and synchronous seed production by plant populations, or masting, is a widespread reproductive strategy in long‐lived plants. Masting is thought to be selectively beneficial because interannual variability and synchrony increase the fitness of plants through economies of scale that decrease the cost of reproduction per surviving offspring. Predator satiation is believed to be a key economy of scale, but whether it can drive phenotypic evolution for masting in plants has been rarely explored.

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