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Department Head: 

Prof. Dr. Alexandra-Maria Klein
phone:+49 (0)761 203-67770



Mrs. Ilona Winkler
phone:+49 (0)761 203-3635
fax:+49 (0)761 203-3638


Chair of Nature Conservation
& Landscape Ecology
University of Freiburg
Tennenbacher Str. 4
D-79106 Freiburg




Phenotypic and behavioral plasticity

Phenotypic and behavioral plasticity

in seed dispersal interactions 


Concept of the experimental set-up: 

A depicts drought (red) and ambient (blue) treatment for red clover seeds to express phenotypic plasticity.

B represents seeds for trait measurements.

C depicts the split-plot design for the microcosm experiment.



Dr. Gesine Pufal

MSc. Carl Skarbek

Dr. Damaris Zurelll (Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL)

Prof. Katriona Shea (Penn State University)

Project duration:

April 2017 - September 2017


Research Innovation Fund Universität Freiburg


Plants of the same genotype can respond to sudden environmental changes by changing phenotypic traits (phenotypic plasticity). While physiological and architectural changes are relatively well understood, little is known about phenotypic plasticity of seed dispersal traits. Those and their interaction with behavioral plasticity of seed dispersers is likely crucial for predicting population response to global change. I propose to study this interaction in a model system with red clover seeds (Trifolium pratense) and slugs as dispersers (Arion rufus and A. lusitanicus) under drought and control conditions. Seeds can respond to drought stress with varying seed coat thickness, which determines whether slugs disperse or predate seeds. Slugs exhibit lower activity under drought stress. By monitoring seed consumption, retention time in the slugs gut and dispersal distance, I can test how phenotypic and behavioral plasticity in different drought scenarios affect seed dispersal in my model system.



  • Pufal, G. & Skarbek, C. (2021): Environmental conditions and seed traits affect seed dispersal patterns in a slug-legume model system. Oikos 130: 1598-1609. Link


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