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Keywords:

  • Germination;
  • phenotypic selection;
  • post-dispersal seed predation;
  • selection differential;
  • within-individual variation

Abstract

Subindividual variation among repeated organs in plants constitutes an overlooked level of variation in phenotypic selection studies, despite being a major component of phenotypic variation. Animals that interact with plants could be selective agents on subindividual variation. This study examines selective pressures exerted during post-dispersal seed predation and germination on the subindividual variation of seed size in hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna). With a seed offering experiment and a germination test, we estimated phenotypic selection differentials for average and subindividual variation of seed size due to seed predation and germination. Seed size affects germination, growth rate and the probability of an individual seed of escaping predation. Longer seeds showed higher germination rates, but this did not result in significant selection on phenotypes of the maternal trees. On the other hand, seed predators avoided wider seeds, and by doing so exerted phenotypic selection on adult average and subindividual variation of seed size. The detected selection on subindividual variation suggests that the levels of phenotypic variation within individual plants may be, at least partly, the adaptive consequence of animal-mediated selection.