, Volume 87, Issue 2, pp 279–287 | Cite as

Plant spinescence in arid southern Africa: does moisture mediate selection by mammals?

  • Suzanne J. Milton
Original Papers


The prediction that spinescence in plants increases with aridity, soil fertility and mammalian herbivory was examined at regional and local scales in southern Africa. Spinescence tended to increase with aridity. Within arid areas, vegetation of moist, nutrient-rich habitats was more spinescent than that of the surrounding dry plains. Spinescence in plants of drainage lines and pans in arid southern Africa occurs in a wide range of genera and appears to have been selected by the effect of large mammals which concentrate on these moist patches. It is concluded that spinescence may be selected by breakage as well as herbivory, and that in arid areas moisture may be important in mediating mammalian selection of spinescence.

Key words

Herbivory Karoo Namib Plant defence Soil nutrients 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne J. Milton
    • 1
  1. 1.FitzPatrick InstituteUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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