Plant Ecology

, Volume 217, Issue 3, pp 253–265 | Cite as

Trade-off between seed defensive traits and impacts on interaction patterns between seeds and rodents in forest ecosystems

  • Zhibin Zhang
  • Zhenyu Wang
  • Gang Chang
  • Xianfeng Yi
  • Jiqi Lu
  • Zhishu Xiao
  • Hongmao Zhang
  • Lin Cao
  • Fusheng Wang
  • Hongjun Li
  • Chuan Yan


Plants often have two kinds of defensive traits against animal predation: physical and chemical defenses, but the trade-off between them is heavily debated, and their impacts on relationship between plants and animals are largely unknown. We investigated seed traits of 23 tree species and their impacts on seed fates or hoarding behaviors under predation from 16 rodent species in four forest types in China. We provide clear evidence that there is a strong nonlinear trade-off between physical (as measured by seed coat thickness) and chemical (as measured by tannin content) defensive traits in seeds. This trade-off was closely associated with nutritional traits, resulting in coordinated defense syndromes in seeds. The seed fate and hoarding behavior patterns were largely determined by the trade-off-related seed traits and the body mass of rodents, respectively, not by the phylogenetic relations of species. Tree species showed more conservative evolution in seed traits of high starch content, high tannin content, and thin seed coat, but they showed more convergent/divergent evolution in seed traits of high protein content, high fat content, and thick seed coat under rodent predation. Our results suggest that trade-off-related seed traits may play a predominant role in shaping the relationship between plants and animals.


Trade-off Physical and chemical defense Phylogenetic distance Evolution Plant-animal interactions 



This work is partially supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB11050300), the grants of National Natural Science Foundation of China (30930016, 31330013, 31372212), the Knowledge Innovation Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (KSZD-EW-TZ-008; CXTDS2005-4), and the National Basic Research Program of China (2007CB109101; 2012CB955504). We are grateful to Prof. Marcel Holyoak, University of California, for his valuable comments to this manuscript. We thank Mr. Yunfa Xiao and Xunlong Wang for the field assistances in rodent capture in Dujiangyan region.

Supplementary material

11258_2016_566_MOESM1_ESM.docx (188 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 187 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhibin Zhang
    • 1
  • Zhenyu Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gang Chang
    • 3
  • Xianfeng Yi
    • 2
  • Jiqi Lu
    • 4
  • Zhishu Xiao
    • 1
  • Hongmao Zhang
    • 5
  • Lin Cao
    • 6
  • Fusheng Wang
    • 1
  • Hongjun Li
    • 1
  • Chuan Yan
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management on Pest Insect and Rodent in Agriculture, Institute of ZoologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.College of Life SciencesJiangxi Normal UniversityNanchangChina
  3. 3.Shanxi Institute of ZoologyXi’anChina
  4. 4.Institute of Biodiversity and EcologyZhengzhou UniversityZhengzhouChina
  5. 5.Molecular and Behavioural Research Group, College of Life SciencesCentral China Normal UniversityWuhanChina
  6. 6.Center for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesMenglaChina

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