Data from: Seed perishability determines the caching behaviour of a food-hoarding bird
Neuschulz, Eike Lena et al. (2014), Data from: Seed perishability determines the caching behaviour of a food-hoarding bird, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.2s7nm
1. Many animals hoard seeds for later consumption and establish seed caches that are often located at sites with specific environmental characteristics. One explanation for the selection of non-random caching locations is the avoidance of pilferage by other animals. Another possible hypothesis is that animals choose locations that hamper the perishability of stored food, allowing the consumption of unspoiled food items over long time periods. 2. We examined seed perishability and pilferage-avoidance as potential drivers for caching behaviour of Spotted nutcrackers (Nucifraga caryocatactes) in the Swiss Alps where the birds are specialized on caching seeds of Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra). 3. We used seedling establishment as an inverse measure of seed perishability, as established seedlings cannot longer be consumed by nutcrackers. We recorded the environmental conditions (i.e., canopy openness and soil moisture) of seed caching, seedling establishment and pilferage sites. 4. Our results show that sites of seed caching and seedling establishment had opposed micro-environmental conditions. Canopy openness and soil moisture were negatively related to seed caching but positively related to seedling establishment, i.e., nutcrackers cached seeds preferentially at sites where seed perishability was low. We found no effects of environmental factors on cache pilferage, i.e. neither canopy openness nor soil moisture had significant effects on pilferage rates. We thus could not relate caching behaviour to pilferage-avoidance. 5. Our study highlights the importance of seed perishability as a mechanism for seed caching behaviour, which should be considered in future studies. Our findings could have important implications for the regeneration of plants whose seeds are dispersed by seed-caching animals, as the potential of seedlings to establish may strongly decrease if animals cache seeds at sites that favour seed perishability rather than seedling establishment.