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Antelope mating strategies facilitate invasion of grasslands by a woody weed

Authors

  • Shivani Jadeja,

    1. Post-Graduate Program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore 560065, Karnataka, India, and School of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588, USA
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  • Soumya Prasad,

    1. Post-Graduate Program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore 560065, Karnataka, India, and School of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588, USA
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  • Suhel Quader,

    1. Post-Graduate Program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore 560065, Karnataka, India, and School of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588, USA
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  • Kavita Isvaran

    1. Post-Graduate Program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore 560065, Karnataka, India, and School of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588, USA
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S. Jadeja, Post-Graduate Program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore 560065, Karnataka, India, and School of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588, USA E-mail: shivanivj@gmail.com

Abstract

Intra and interspecific variation in frugivore behaviour can have important consequences for seed dispersal outcomes. However, most information comes from among-species comparisons, and within-species variation is relatively poorly understood. We examined how large intraspecific differences in the behaviour of a native disperser, blackbuck antelope Antilope cervicapra, influence dispersal of a woody invasive, Prosopis juliflora, in a grassland ecosystem. Blackbuck disperse P. juliflora seeds through their dung. In lekking blackbuck populations, males defend clustered or dispersed mating territories. Territorial male movement is restricted, and within their territories males defecate on dung-piles. In contrast, mixed-sex herds range over large areas and do not create dung-piles. We expected territorial males to shape seed dispersal patterns, and seed deposition and seedling recruitment to be spatially localized. Territorial males had a disproportionately large influence on seed dispersal. Adult males removed twice as much fruit as females, and seed arrival was disproportionately high on territories. Also, because lek-territories are clustered, seed arrival was spatially highly concentrated. Seedling recruitment was also substantially higher on territories compared with random sites, indicating that the local concentration of seeds created by territorial males continued into high local recruitment of seedlings. Territorial male behaviour may, thus, result in a distinct spatial pattern of invasion of grasslands by the woody P. juliflora. An ex situ experiment showed no beneficial effect of dung and a negative effect of light on seed germination. We conclude that large intraspecific behavioural differences within frugivore populations can result in significant variation in their effectiveness as seed dispersers. Mating strategies in a disperser could shape seed dispersal, seedling recruitment and potentially plant distribution patterns. These mating strategies may aid in the spread of invasives, such as P. juliflora, which could, in turn, negatively influence the behaviour and ecology of native dispersers.

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