Small mammals are key scatter hoarders in forest ecosystems, acting as both seed predators and dispersers. The outcome of their interactions (i.e., predation vs. dispersal) is determined by a series of decisions made by small mammals, such as the choice of seed, whether the seed is immediately consumed or cached, and where it is cached. These decisions are influenced by a variety of factors, including the intrinsic traits of the seed, the individual personality of the scatter hoarder, and the perceived risk of predation while foraging. Furthermore, these factors may all interact to dictate the fate of the seed, with consequences for forest regeneration. Nevertheless, the ways in which perceived predation risk and personality interact to affect the seed dispersal decisions of scatter hoarders are still poorly understood. To contribute in filling this knowledge gap, we tested the hypotheses that southern red-backed voles (Myodes gapperi), an important scatter hoarder in forest ecosystems, would exhibit personality-mediated foraging and that predation risk would alter associations between personality and seed dispersal. We conducted a large-scale field experiment, offering seed trays at stations with altered risk levels and recorded foraging decisions of free-ranging voles with known personalities. We found that personality and perceived predation risk influenced decisions made by foraging voles. Specifically, docility, and boldness predicted foraging site selection, boldness predicted seed species selection and the number of seeds individuals selected, and the tendency to explore of an individual predicted whether voles would remove or consume seeds. Predation risk, mediated by the amount of cover at a site and by moon illumination, affected which foraging site individuals chose, seed species selection, and the probability of removal versus consumption. We did not find support for an interaction between personality and predation risk in predicting foraging decisions. These findings highlight the importance of scatter hoarder personality and perceived predation risk in affecting foraging decisions, with important consequences for seed dispersal and implications for altered patterns of forest regeneration in areas with different small mammal personality distributions or landscapes of fear.

Predation risk and personality influence seed predation and dispersal by a scatter-hoarding small mammal

Mortelliti Alessio
2023-01-01

Abstract

Small mammals are key scatter hoarders in forest ecosystems, acting as both seed predators and dispersers. The outcome of their interactions (i.e., predation vs. dispersal) is determined by a series of decisions made by small mammals, such as the choice of seed, whether the seed is immediately consumed or cached, and where it is cached. These decisions are influenced by a variety of factors, including the intrinsic traits of the seed, the individual personality of the scatter hoarder, and the perceived risk of predation while foraging. Furthermore, these factors may all interact to dictate the fate of the seed, with consequences for forest regeneration. Nevertheless, the ways in which perceived predation risk and personality interact to affect the seed dispersal decisions of scatter hoarders are still poorly understood. To contribute in filling this knowledge gap, we tested the hypotheses that southern red-backed voles (Myodes gapperi), an important scatter hoarder in forest ecosystems, would exhibit personality-mediated foraging and that predation risk would alter associations between personality and seed dispersal. We conducted a large-scale field experiment, offering seed trays at stations with altered risk levels and recorded foraging decisions of free-ranging voles with known personalities. We found that personality and perceived predation risk influenced decisions made by foraging voles. Specifically, docility, and boldness predicted foraging site selection, boldness predicted seed species selection and the number of seeds individuals selected, and the tendency to explore of an individual predicted whether voles would remove or consume seeds. Predation risk, mediated by the amount of cover at a site and by moon illumination, affected which foraging site individuals chose, seed species selection, and the probability of removal versus consumption. We did not find support for an interaction between personality and predation risk in predicting foraging decisions. These findings highlight the importance of scatter hoarder personality and perceived predation risk in affecting foraging decisions, with important consequences for seed dispersal and implications for altered patterns of forest regeneration in areas with different small mammal personality distributions or landscapes of fear.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/3034100
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