Damage and herbivory tolerance through resprouting as an advantage of large seed size in tropical trees and lianas


K Harms
J Dalling

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Journal of Tropical Ecology


Germination and seedling resprouting capacity of the very large-seeded tree species Prioria copaifera Griseb. (Fabaceae) was studied in the seasonally moist forest of Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Seeds with 60% of their cotyledonary mass removed did not suffer a reduced probability of germination compared to unmanipulated seeds and seeds infested with up to eight insect larvae germinated as well as uninfested seeds. Unmanipulated seeds were able to consecutively produce up to four functional resprout shoots after excision of the initial, and subsequent, fully expanded shoots. Even seeds with up to 60% of their reserves removed showed some capacity to resprout. Less than 10% of seeds we encountered in the field 2 mo after the end of the fruiting season were in a viable state, with the majority (55%) of mortality attributable to insect or pathogen damage Of the 46 seeds that were viable, 30% had suffered partial removal of seed reserves similar to our manipulation treatments. These results indicate that P. copaifera seeds are capable of tolerating severe seed and shoot damage. The selective advantage conferred by damage tolerance may in part have contributed to the evolution of large seed size in this species.