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Flowering schedule in a perennial plant; life‐history trade‐offs, seed predation, and total offspring fitness
- Ehrlén, Johan, Raabova, Jana, Dahlgren, Johan P.
- Ecology 2015 v.96 no.8 pp. 2280-2288
- Actaea, flowering, flowers, fruits, germination, life history, models, perennials, progeny, reproduction, seed predation, seedlings, seeds
- Optimal timing of reproduction within a season may be influenced by several abiotic and biotic factors. These factors sometimes affect different components of fitness, making assessments of net selection difficult. We used estimates of offspring fitness to examine how pre‐dispersal seed predation influences selection on flowering schedule in an herb with a bimodal flowering pattern, Actaea spicata. Within individuals, seeds from flowers on early terminal inflorescences had a higher germination rate and produced larger seedlings than seeds from flowers on late basal inflorescences. Reproductive value, estimated using demographic integral projection models and accounting for size‐dependent differences in future performance, was two times higher for intact seeds from early flowers than for seeds from late flowers. Fruits from late flowers were, however, much more likely to escape seed predation than fruits from early flowers. Reproductive values of early and late flowers balanced at a predation intensity of 63%. Across 15 natural populations, the strength of selection for allocation to late flowers was positively correlated with mean seed predation intensity. Our results suggest that the optimal shape of the flowering schedule, in terms of the allocation between early and late flowers, is determined by the trade‐off between offspring number and quality, and that variation in antagonistic interactions among populations influences the balancing of this trade‐off. At the same time they illustrate that phenotypic selection analyses that fail to account for differences in offspring fitness might be misleading.