Ecological factors associated with pre-dispersal predation of fig seeds and symbionts by specialist lepidopteran larvae

Publication

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

Acta Oecologica (Submitted)

Abstract:

Pre-dispersal seed predation can have large negative repercussions for plant population dynamics. The Sonoran Desert rock fig Ficus petiolaris and its highly-coevolved wasp pollinator are subject to frequent attack by lepidopteran larvae that consume fig fruit and the developing seeds and larval pollinators they contain. We used generalized linear mixed models to investigate ecological factors associated with variation in lepidopteran damage intensity on individual trees at nine geographic locations spanning a 741 km latitudinal transect along Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. We found lepidopteran damage to be strongly positively associated with more synchronous fig crops and larger trees, and only weakly associated with local host tree density. These results imply that fruit production that is asynchronous within trees and spread out over time, as observed in several fig species, may be an adaptive strategy to avoid pre- dispersal predation by fruigivores.