Anticipatory Reproduction and Population Growth in Seed Predators

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Science  22 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5807, pp. 1928-1930
DOI: 10.1126/science.1135520

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Mast seeding, the intermittent, synchronous production of large seed crops by a population of plants, is a well-known example of resource pulses that create lagged responses in successive trophic levels of ecological communities. These lags arise because seed predators are thought capable of increasing reproduction and population size only after the resource pulse is available for consumption. The resulting satiation of predators is a widely cited explanation for the evolution of masting. Our study shows that both American and Eurasian tree squirrels anticipate resource pulses and increase reproductive output before a masting event, thereby increasing population size in synchrony with the resource pulse and eliminating the population lag thought to be universal in resource pulse systems.

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