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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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).
Supplementary information accompanies this paper at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-21487-7.
Han, Yi J.; Baskin, Jerry M.; Tan, Dun Y.; Baskin, Carol C.; and Wu, Ming Y., "Effects of Predispersal Insect Seed Predation on the Early Life History Stages of a Rare Cold Sand-Desert Legume" (2018). Biology Faculty Publications. 157.
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Supplementary Table S3.