The functional response of a hoarding seed predator to mast seeding

Q.E. Fletcher, Stan Boutin, J.E. Lane, J LaMontagne, A.G. Mcadam, Charles Krebs, M.M. Humphries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Mast seeding involves the episodic and synchronous production of large seed crops by perennial plants. The predator satiation hypothesis proposes that mast seeding maximizes seed escape because seed predators consume a decreasing proportion of available seeds with increasing seed production. However, the seed escape benefits of masting depend not only on whether predators are satiated at high levels of seed production, but also on the shape of their functional response (type II vs. type III), and the actual proportion of available seeds that they consume at different levels of seed production. North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) are the primary vertebrate predator of white spruce (Picea glauca) mast seed crops in many boreal regions because they hoard unopened cones in underground locations, preempting the normal sequence of cone opening, seed dispersal, and seed germination. We document the functional response of cone-hoarding by red squirrels across three non-mast years and one mast year by estimating the number of cones present in the territories of individual red squirrels and the proportion of these cones that they hoarded each autumn. Even though red squirrels are not constrained by the ingestive and on-body (fat reserves) energy reserve limitations experienced by animals that consume seeds directly, most squirrels hoarded
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2673-2683
Number of pages11
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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