From seed chemistry to forest dynamics: 

The effects of acorn characteristics on dispersal and establishment of the oaks by scatter-hoarding mammals and birds


Dr. Michael Steele

Professor and H. Fenner Chair of Research Biology

Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania


Tuesday, February 19th, at 4:30 5:30 p.m.

Ruhl Student Center, Community Room




Much of my research focuses on the interactions between plants seeds and their seed consumers (granivores).  For the past several years we have studied how the physical and chemical characteristics of acorns influence the behavioral decisions of scatter-hoarding mammals (squirrels, mice and chipmunks) and birds (primarily jays), and how these behavioral decisions in turn impact the dispersal, establishment, and regeneration of oaks.  We have shown for example (1) that many red oak species possess opposing chemical gradients that direct seed predation away from the embryo, and often result in partial consumption of the seed and successful germination and establishment of the plant.  Another major area of our research shows (2) that throughout oak forests in North America, red oak species are selectively cached over those of white oak as a result of various acorn characteristics as well as some remarkable capabilities of the seed consumers (especially tree squirrels).  Our current work involves understanding (1) how oak dispersal by blue jays is influenced by forest fragmentation, (2) how oak dispersal varies in the context of other seed types (e.g., American chestnut), and (3) how secondary dispersal and cache pilferage by squirrels, jays, and chipmunks influences acorn dispersal and establishment.


Curriculum Vitae:




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