Seed predation includes any process inflicted on a plant’s seeds by an animal that results in the inviability of the seed.
Generally this refers to the consumption and digestion of the seed, but also includes the parasitization of seeds by insect larvae.
The high nutrient content of seeds makes them a valuable food source for many mammals, birds and insects.
Seed predation is an important ecological process that can affect the reproductive success of individual plants, the dynamics of plant populations, and the evolution of defensive dispersal mechanisms and plant morphological traits.
Before dispersal, seeds are clustered in space and time, occurring in localised areas (i.e. on the plant) for relatively short periods of time.
Additionally the presence of seeds on a plant may be advertised, intentionally or unintentionally, by the presence of flowers or fruits.
Animals preying on undispersed seeds are typically small insects, such as flies, beetles, and moth larvae, with limited mobility.
These predators are often specialist feeders, restricted to one or a few plant species.
However, larger generalist species, such as birds and mammals, may also eat undispersed seed.