Seed dispersal in Erythronium dens-canis L. (Liliaceae): variation among habitats in a myrmecochorous plant
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Erythronium dens-canis is a geophyte which produces a single flower each season. The fruits produce small seeds with relatively large elaiosomes. We performed experiments to investigate primary and secondary seed dispersal mechanisms of this species in different habitats in the western part of the Cantabrian Range in northwest Spain. Sticky traps were used to measure primary dispersal of seeds up to 0.5 m from mother plants. Seed cafeteria experiments were performed in different habitats to examine the role of ants and rodents in secondary seed transport and seed predation. Our results indicate that: (a) primary seed dispersal is positively skewed (99% of seeds fall within 20 cm of the mother plant) and seed dispersal distances vary significantly among plants; (b) secondary dispersal is exclusively by myrmecochory, although the proportion of seeds removed by ants differs significantly among habitats; (c) ant species composition and abundances vary among habitats; and (d) freshly dropped seeds are more likely to be removed than seeds that have begun to dry out. We conclude that secondary dispersal of seeds is greatly influenced by habitat but not by small-scale microhabitat.
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