Tolerance to seed predation mediated by seed size increases at lower latitudes in a Mediterranean oak

Bogdziewicz M., Espelta J.M., Bonal R. (2019) Tolerance to seed predation mediated by seed size increases at lower latitudes in a Mediterranean oak. Annals of Botany. 123: 707-714.
Doi: 10.1093/aob/mcy203


Background and Aims: The ability of plants to allocate energy to resistance against herbivores changes with abiotic conditions and thus may vary along geographical clines, with important consequences for plant communities. Seed size is a plant trait potentially influencing plant tolerance to endoparasites, and seed size often varies across latitude. Consequently, plant tolerance to endoparasites may change across geographical clines. Methods: The interaction between Quercus ilex (holm oak) and seed-predating Curculio spp. (weevils) was explored along most of the latitudinal range of Q. ilex. This included quantification of variation in seed size, survival likelihood of infested seeds, multi-infestation of acorns and community composition of Curculio weevils in acorns. Key Results: Larger seeds had a higher probability of surviving weevil attack (i.e. embryo not predated). Southern populations of oak produced on average four times larger seeds than those of northern populations. Consequently, the probability of survival of infested acorns decreased with latitude. The community composition of Curculio varied, with large weevils (C. elephas) dominating in southern populations and small weevils (C. glandium) dominating in northern populations. However, damage tolerance was robust against this turnover in predator functional traits. Furthermore, we did not detect any change in multi-infestation of acorns along the geographical gradient. Conclusions: Quercus ilex tolerance to seed predation by Curculio weevils increases toward the southern end of its distribution. Generally, studies on geographical variation in plant defence against enemies largely ignore seed attributes or they focus on seed physical barriers. Thus, this research suggests another dimension in which geographical trends in plant defences should be considered, i.e. geographical variation in tolerance to seed predators mediated by seed size. © 2018 The Author(s).

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