Seed dispersal in Cakile edentula var. lacustris: Decoupling the fitness effects of density and distance from the home site
A factorial design of three densities of siblings at three local distances from seed parents was employed to distinguish effects of density from effects of dispersal distance on lifespan and fruit production of Cakile edentula var. lacustris, a plant with heteromorphic seeds. The segmented fruits produce two seed types: proximal and distal, with distal seeds having greater mass and greater dispersibility. Effects of longer distances (0.5 km and 30 km) on lifespan and fruit production were investigated using plants at low density. The prediction was tested that the greater seed mass of distal seeds increases fitness when seeds are dispersed into sites of unknown quality away from the home site or when seeds are dispersed to low density. High density caused earlier mortality and lower probability of reproduction. Distance from the maternal plant did not influence lifespan or reproduction at distances of 15 m or less, but lifespan was longer 0.5 km from the home site. No interaction was detected between the effects of density and distance on either lifespan or total fitness. Environmental conditions that influence fitness did not vary as a function of dispersal distance in this system, and favorable conditions at the home site did not persist between generations. Therefore, selection on dispersion patterns in natural conditions is likely to be through effects of density rather than dispersal distance. Proximal seeds had greater reproduction than distal seeds at the home site, and distal seeds had greater reproduction at the more distant sites (but not the most distant site), as expected, but these performance differences could not be attributed to differences in mass between the two seed types. Reduced seed mass was favored at the most distant site, but larger seed mass was favored most strongly at low density. Seeds that are dispersed to low density are larger, suggesting that although kin selection may limit the effectiveness of individual selection to increase seed mass under conditions of sibling competition, density-dependent individual selection on seed mass, rather than distant-dependent selection, also contributes to the observed associations among seed type, seed mass and dispersal ability.
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