Sesiid moths reduce germination, seedling growth, and survivorship in Pentaclethra macroloba (Mimosoideae), a locally dominant lowland neotropical tree


Monodominant forests are a widespread feature of the humid and wet lowland tropics, but little is known about their origins or factors mediating their persistence. Nonetheless, escape from significant vertebrate and invertebrate seed predation plays a prominent role in most hypotheses. The seeds of Pentaclethra macroloba (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae) have long been thought to be virtually immune to predation, contributing to its local dominance in the canopy of some Mesoamerican forests. Here, we describe herbivory by the larvae of Carmenta surinamensis (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) on the seeds of P. macroloba, and report the results of studies designed to clarify how this interaction influences germination, seedling growth, and mortality. To this end, we collected P. macroloba seeds at 30-d intervals for 5 mo along a rain forest transect in Costa Rica. The seeds were monitored in a shade house for 30 d. Adult moths were reared from 43.6 percent of seeds, and significantly affected germination and mortality, and all measures of growth (number of leaves, seedling height, seed and seedling mass at 30 d, and 30-d change in seed and seedling mass). Based on these observations, we conclude that seed boring by C. surinamensis is a potentially important factor influencing population dynamics in P. macroloba, and warrants further investigation for its prospective role in regulating local abundance in this locally dominant and ecologically significant tree. © 2006 The Author(s).

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