Functional responses of contrasting seed predator guilds to masting in two Mediterranean oak species

Research paper by Xoaquín Moreira, Ignacio M. Pérez‐Ramos, Luis Abdala‐Roberts, Kailen A. Mooney

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 24 Jan '17Published in: Oikos


The predator satiation hypothesis poses that synchronous and variable seed production during masting events increases seed escape through seed predator satiation. The success of this strategy depends upon the type of consumer functional response, in this case defined as the change in seed consumption rate by a predator as a function of change in seed density. Type II (where the proportion of seed consumed is highest at low levels of seed availability) and type III (where the proportion of seed consumed is highest at some intermediate level of seed availability and then declines towards zero) functional responses describe negative density-dependence and indicate predator satiation. The type of function response should be contingent upon herbivore traits: type II responses are predicted for dietary specialist predators with low mobility, and type III responses are predicted for highly mobile, dietary generalist predators. Surprisingly, most studies have not evaluated whether functional responses vary among seed predator guilds. Here we describe the functional responses at population and individual tree level of highly mobile generalist (birds and rodents) and less mobile specialist (insects) pre-dispersal seed predators attacking acorns of two sympatric oaks (Quercus suber and Q. canariensis) over a 10-year period. Our results showed that in most cases specialist seed predators exhibited the predicted type II functional response at both the individual tree and population level for both oak species. However, generalist seed predators did not exhibit the predicted type III response; instead, they also exhibited a type II response at the individual tree and population level for both oak species. By independently assessing the effects of multiple seed predators associated with the same host tree species, our work highlights the influence of herbivore traits on the outcome of plant–seed predator interactions in masting species, and thus furthers our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms underlying masting behaviour.