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Trends Ecol Evol. 1994 Dec;9(12):465-70. doi: 10.1016/0169-5347(94)90310-7.

The evolutionary ecology of mast seeding.

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Dave Kelly is in Plant and Microbial Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.


The past seven years have seen a revolution in understanding the causes of mast seeding In perennial plants. Before 1987, the two main theories were resource matching (i.e. plants vary their reproductive output to match variable resources) and predator satiation (i.e. losses to predators are reduced by varying the seed crop). Today, resource matching is restricted to a proximate role, and predator satiation is only one of many theories for the ultimate advantage of masting. Wind pollination, prediction of favourable years for seedling establishment, animal pollination, animal dispersal of fruits, high accessory costs of reproduction and large seed size have all been advanced as possible causes of masting. Of these, wind pollination, predator satiation and environmental prediction are important in a number of species, but the other theories have less support. In future, Important advances seem likely from quantifying synchrony within a population, and examining species with very constant reproduction between years.

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