Institute Recursos Cinegeticos CSIC UCLM JCCM

Ciudad Real, Spain

Institute Recursos Cinegeticos CSIC UCLM JCCM

Ciudad Real, Spain
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Munoz A.,Complutense University of Madrid | Bonal R.,CREAF | Bonal R.,Institute Recursos Cinegeticos CSIC UCLM JCCM | Bonal R.,University of Castilla - La Mancha | Espelta J.M.,CREAF
Animal Behaviour | Year: 2012

Seed preferences of scatter-hoarding granivores may influence the evolution of seed traits in plants. However, there is little evidence linking the granivores' responses to specific seed traits to the variability of seeds in a single plant species. This information is essential for understanding how the decisions of granivores can shape plant life histories. We analysed how seed morphology (size and shape) of the Holm oak, Quercus ilex, influences seed choices of the seed-disperser, the Algerian mouse, Mus spretus. We studied the seed variability of the oak and whether the frequency of seed phenotypes matched the seed choices of the disperser. The probabilities of seed removal decreased as the seeds became larger and more bullet-shaped, so that seeds that were simultaneously large and bullet-shaped had the lowest probabilities of being dispersed. These seeds are probably refused by rodents because they impose higher handling and transport costs. The size and shape of the Holm oak seeds were highly variable between trees, but extraordinarily consistent within a single tree over different years. However, the analysis of seed variability revealed a disproportionately low frequency of large bullet-shaped phenotypes, which are those barely removed by rodents. Seed preferences of dispersers of species with high seed variability between trees can lead to differences in the chances of seeds produced by different trees being dispersed. Those seed phenotypes preferred by dispersers could make a higher contribution to the next generation, which could influence the evolution and variability of seeds in a plant species. © 2012 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.


Sunyer P.,CREAF | Espelta J.M.,CREAF | Bonal R.,CREAF | Bonal R.,Institute Recursos Cinegeticos CSIC UCLM JCCM | And 3 more authors.
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology | Year: 2014

Scatter-hoarding rodents influence the population dynamics of plants by acting as seed predators and dispersers. Therefore, rodent foraging preferences for certain seed traits (species, size, condition) have been extensively studied. However, to what extent these preferences are fixed or they track the temporal changes on seed characteristics due to phenological differences has been seldom explored. We studied the temporal variability in seed preferences by wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), according to phenological changes in seed characteristics of two co-occurring oaks (Quercus ilex and Quercus pubescens). The phenology of acorn abundance and the acorn predation/dispersal patterns by rodents were monitored over an entire seeding season. Results revealed temporal changes in rodent preferences for acorns of the two oaks, matching their different seeding phenology (earlier in Q. pubescens and later in Q. ilex). On the other hand, whatever the species considered, rodents preferred larger and sound acorns along the entire season, although the dispersal of infested ones increased slightly during the peaks of acorn drop. The observed influence of seeding phenology on seed choices by rodents warns about inferring definite conclusions regarding their foraging behavior when arising from short-term experiments. Indeed, this study reveals that foraging preferences may be highly dynamic and context-dependent for some seed traits (e.g., species and condition), rather than fixed behavioral patterns. Plasticity in rodent foraging choices may allow them to successfully exploit different oaks with uncoupled seeding phenologies, while potentially favoring their coexistence. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


Munoz A.,Complutense University of Madrid | Bonal R.,Institute Recursos Cinegeticos CSIC UCLM JCCM | Espelta J.M.,CREAF
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2014

Weevils are the most important pre-dispersal acorn predators in the Mediterranean region, where oaks often form mixed forests and different weevil species can coexist. The performance of weevil larvae depends in great extent on their feeding activities inside the infested acorns that, in turn, are known to reduce the viability of acorns. In this paper, we have analysed the interactions among the weevil community and four oak species (Quercus pyrenaica, Quercus suber, Quercus faginea and Quercus ilex) coexisting in a Mediterranean mixed-oak forest. DNA sequencing of weevil larvae revealed four different weevil species (Curculio elephas, Curculio glandium, Curculio pellitus and Curculio venosus) infesting the acorns of the four oak species. Oak species differed in acorn size, and weevil species also differed in body size. Weevil species showed some degree of specificity among the four oak species, but specificity was not related to variations in acorn size. By contrast, larval development and seedling recruitment were mostly driven by inter-specific differences in larval and acorn size. Larger seeded species suffered less seed damages by weevils (i.e. embryo predation and cotyledon consumption), thus reducing the impacts of acorn infestation in seedling emergence and seedling size. Larval development for the largest weevil species C. elephas was constrained by cotyledon depletion in all acorn species. Yet, this pattern was not observed for other weevil species. Larval size of the same weevil species also varied among different oak species after controlling for the amount of cotyledon eaten by larvae, thus, variation of other acorn traits among acorn species (e.g. chemical composition) may also have consequences for the performance of weevil larvae. It is likely that other variables operating at population level, such as temporal and spatial changes in acorn production or phenological variations of weevils and oaks, are also implicated in the complex functioning of these outstanding mixed-oak forests where natural regeneration seems to be threatened. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.


Sunyer P.,CREAF | Munoz A.,CREAF | Munoz A.,Complutense University of Madrid | Bonal R.,CREAF | And 3 more authors.
Functional Ecology | Year: 2013

Seed-caching rodents play a key role in the ecology of seed dispersal by not only consuming but also dispersing seeds. Rodent foraging behaviour is usually framed within optimal models, which predict that their decisions should maximize food intake and minimize foraging costs. Although predation risk and seed pilferage by conspecifics have been envisaged as two potential costs, their relevance for seed-caching behaviour and seed dispersal has barely been addressed. To test the effect of predation and pilferage risk on the patterns of seed predation/dispersal by rodents, we performed a field experiment using a tri-trophic-level model (plant-mice-carnivore; Quercus spp-Apodemus sylvaticus-Genetta genetta) and the scents of the predator and conspecifics as direct cues. The behaviour of mice was analysed with video cameras set for continuous recording on consecutive nights, and we used tagged acorns to assess the patterns of acorn predation and dispersal. Our results revealed that rodents were able to discriminate between the scents of genet and conspecifics and modified their seed dispersal behaviour accordingly. Mice spent more time 'sniffing' in rodent cages than in genet cages, where they displayed more 'vigilance and freezing' behaviours. In sites with mice scents, acorns were dispersed at shorter distances and were less predated. Conversely, in sites with genet scents acorn removal was delayed. These results show that chemosensory information on predators and conspecifics influences the foraging decisions of seed-caching rodents over short spatial and temporal scales. This might entail cascading effects on the regeneration of plants. In sites where rodents perceive the risk of predation, inefficient foraging behaviour may result in less successful seed dispersal. Conversely, the detection of conspecific scents may increase dispersal efficiency and seedling recruitment. Ultimately, the relationships between two distant levels in trophic webs (plants-carnivores) appear intricate, since carnivores may affect seed dispersal by changing the foraging behaviour of their prey (the seed disperser). This indirect relationship should be considered as a new dimension of the ecology of seed dispersal by small rodents. © 2013 British Ecological Society.


Munoz A.,Autonomous University of Barcelona | Munoz A.,University of Castilla - La Mancha | Bonal R.,Institute Recursos Cinegeticos CSIC UCLM JCCM | Bonal R.,University of Castilla - La Mancha
Journal of Ecology | Year: 2011

1.The spatial distribution of dispersed seeds results from the combined action of the caching strategies followed by different granivores. Hence, it is essential to study the factors that influence seed predation and caching decisions to achieve a better understanding of the dispersal process. 2.In this study, we document how seed dispersal and the spatial patterns of natural recruitment are linked to the strategies used by granivores to protect their cached seeds from pilferage. We present a theoretical model showing that those strategies may convey benefits for both seed cachers and plants. 3.We studied the relationships among seed production, seed predation/caching, cache pilferage and plant recruitment in a savanna-like landscape of oaks dispersed by scatter-hoarding rodents. 4.Our results show that acorn-dispersing rodents were concentrated under the canopies of scattered oaks, where the theft of cached acorns increased by 77% as compared to that of the surrounding open landscape. Acorns were thus cached selectively in the open areas to reduce pilferage; in fact, none of the few seeds cached beneath tree canopies survived predation by granivores (pilferage+recovery). Meanwhile, some acorns cached in the surrounding open areas were neither pilfered nor recovered and then recruited successfully. Accordingly, natural recruitment of newly emerged seedlings was higher outside than under canopies, suggesting that rodent caching strategies have direct implications for the directed dispersal of oaks. 5.Synthesis. The spatial patterns of seed dispersal shape the fitness of both the plant because they influence dispersal and recruitment efficiency, and the granivores that cache and predate its seeds because they influence their foraging efficiency. Cache protection strategies reduce pilferage significantly and enhance seed recovery rates by the cache owner. At the same time, more seeds remain dispersed and unrecovered. Thus, cache protection strategies can provide net benefits to the plant in terms of effective directed dispersal. © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society.

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