The timing of seed dispersal in Viooa nuttallii

attraction of dispersers and avoidance of predators

Christine L. Turnbull*, David C. Culver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)


Elaiosomes attract rodent predators, as well as ant dispersers (Myrmica discontinua and Formica podzolica), to Viola nuttallii seeds. Seed removal by ants and rodents was studied over 24 h and over two separate 4-h periods. Experimental treatments included i) ants and rodents having access to seeds, ii) only ants having access, iii) only rodents having access, and iv) neither ants nor rodents having access. Seed dehiscence was monitored for 3 days. A simple model is used to determine the relative importance of ants and rodents in removing seeds, and these frequencies are related to the time when most seeds were released. The data show that most seeds are shed from capsules between 9 AM and 1 PM and are immediately removed by ants. Ants, on the average, remove 88% of the seeds. The timing of seed dehiscence increases the probability of seeds being dispersed by ants. The results are discussed with respect to the hypothesis that a sychrony of the time of seed dispersal and the period when most ants (mutualists) and least rodents (predators) are active would be advantageous to the plant species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-365
Number of pages6
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1983

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