Latitude, seed predation and seed mass

A. T. Moles, M. Westoby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: We set out to test the hypothesis that rates of pre- and post-dispersal seed predation would be higher towards the tropics, across a broad range of species from around the world. We also aimed to quantify the slope and predictive power of the relationship between seed mass and latitude both within and across species. Methods: Seed mass, pre-dispersal seed predation and post-dispersal seed removal data were compiled from the literature. Wherever possible, these data were combined with information regarding the latitude at which the data were collected. Analyses were performed using both cross-species and phylogenetic regressions. Results: Contrary to expectations, we found no significant relationship between seed predation and latitude (log10 proportion of seeds surviving predispersal seed predation vs. latitude, P = 0.63; R2 = 0.02; n = 122 species: log10 proportion of seeds remaining after postdispersal seed removal vs. latitude, P = 0.54; R2 = 0.02; n = 205 species). These relationships remained non-significant after variation because of seed mass was accounted for. We also found a very substantial (R2 = 0.21) relationship between seed mass and latitude across 2706 species, with seed mass being significantly higher towards the tropics. Within-species seed mass decline with latitude was significant, but only about two-sevenths, as rapid as the cross-species decline with latitude. Results of phylogenetic analyses were very similar to cross-species analyses. We also demonstrated a positive relationship between seed mass and development time across ten species from dry sclerophyll woodland in Sydney (P < 0.001; R2 = 0.77; Standardized Major Axis slope = 0.14). These data lend support to the hypothesis that growing period might affect the maximum attainable seed mass in a given environment. Main conclusions: There was no evidence that seed predation is higher towards the tropics. The strong relationship between seed mass and latitude shown here had been observed in previous studies, but had not previously been quantified at a global scale. There was a tenfold reduction in mean seed mass for every c. 23° moved towards the poles, despite a wide range of seed mass within each latitude.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-128
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


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