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NatSci-Colloquium - Gesine Pufal

Dr. Gesine Pufal

University of Freiburg
Ecology and Biodiversity

Directionality in seed predation and dispersal in a slug-seed model system
When Jun 23, 2020
from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Where Zoom-Meeting
Contact Name
Attendees Universitätsoffen / open to university members
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Directionality in seed predation and dispersal in a slug-seed model system

Many plant species do not have a specialized dispersal mechanism and seeds are usually dispersed by gravity. How the interplay between animal behavior and seed traits determines the probability of seed predation or dispersal when animals encounter seeds is largely unknown. Especially when considering changing environmental conditions that might affect animal foraging behavior, these interactions are likely crucial for predicting plant population responses to global change.

In a microcosm experiment with legume seeds and slugs as opportunistic generalist granivores I assessed whether dry or wet conditions affected slug behavior and analyzed how slug (size) and seed traits (size, oil and protein content) determine dispersal and predation rates.

When slugs encountered seeds, they tended to consume smaller seeds. Of the consumed seeds, those with higher protein content were digested, leading to seed predation. Slugs in wet conditions moved more and for longer distances whereas slugs in dry conditions showed stronger homing behavior, returning to their shelter more often and spending more time there.

These first results indicate that in drier conditions, the rates of seed predation or dispersal by slugs might not necessarily change but dispersal might be more directed to microsites with improved germination conditions for some seed species. How these results can be generalized across seed species is part of my ongoing FRIAS project.