Seed predation by insects is common in seeds of Fabaceae (legume) species with physical dormancy (PY). However, the consequences of insect seed predation on the life history of legumes with PY have been little studied. In the largest genus of seed plants, Astragalus (Fabaceae), only one study has tested the effects of insect predation on germination, and none has tested it directly on seedling survival. Thus, we tested the effects of insect predation on seed germination and seedling growth and survival of Astragalus lehmannianus, a central Asian sand-desert endemic. Under laboratory conditions, seeds lightly predated in the natural habitat of this perennial legume germinated to a much higher percentage than intact seeds, and seedlings from predated and nonpredated seeds survived and grew about equally well. Further, in contrast to our prediction seedlings from predated seeds that germinated “out-of-season” under near-natural conditions in NW China survived over winter. The implication of our results is that individual plants from predated seeds that germinate early (in our case autumn) potentially have a fitness advantage over those from nonpredated seeds, which delay germination until spring of a subsequent year.

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Published in Scientific Reports, v. 8, article no. 3240, p. 1-10.

© The Author(s) 2018

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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This study was supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31470320, U1603231) and by the Major National Scientific Research Program of China (2014CB954202).

Related Content

Supplementary information accompanies this paper at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-21487-7.

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Supplementary Figure S1.

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Supplementary Figure S2.

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Supplementary Figure S3.

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Supplementary Table S1.

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Supplementary Table S2.

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Supplementary Table S3.