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Seed tolerance to predation: Evidence from the toxic seeds of the buckeye tree (Aesculus californica; Sapindaceae).

Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-5020 USA.
American Journal of Botany (Impact Factor: 2.46). 07/2009; 96(7):1255-61. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.0800297
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Tolerance, the capacity of plants to withstand attack by animals, as opposed to resistance, has been poorly examined in the context of seed predation. We investigated the role that the seed mass of the large-seeded endemic tree Aesculus californica plays as a tolerance trait to rodent attack by comparing, under greenhouse conditions, patterns of germination, and subsequent seedling growth, of seeds with a wide range of natural damage. Germination percentage was reduced by 50% and time to germination by 64% in attacked compared to intact seeds, and germination probability was negatively correlated with damage. Seedlings that emerged from intact seeds were taller and bore more leaves than those from damaged seeds. This species' large seed mass favors tolerance to damage because heavily damaged seeds are able to germinate and produce seedlings. This finding is significant given that seeds of this species are known to contain chemical compounds toxic to vertebrates, a resistance trait. We posit that this combination of tolerance and resistance traits might be a particularly effective antipredation strategy when seeds are exposed to a variety of vertebrate predators.

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