The behavioural ecology of climbing plants
Annals of Botany
Climbing plants require an external support to grow vertically and enhance light\nacquisition. Vines that find a suitable support have greater performance and fitness\nthan those that remain prostrate. Therefore the location of a suitable support is a key\nprocess in the life history of climbing plants. Numerous studies on climbing plant\nbehaviour have elucidated mechanistic details of support searching and attachment.\nMuch fewer studies have addressed the ecological significance of support finding\nbehaviour and the factors that affect it. Without this knowledge little progress can be\nmade in the understanding of the evolution of support finding behaviour in climbers. I\nreview studies addressing ecological causes and consequences of support finding\nand use by climbing plants. I also propose the use of behavioural ecology theoretical\nframeworks to study climbing plant behaviour. I show how host tree attributes may\ndetermine the probability of successful colonization for the different types of climbers\nand examine the evidence of environmental and genetic control of circumnutation\nbehaviour and phenotypic responses to support availability. Cases of oriented vine\ngrowth towards supports are highlighted. I discuss functional responses of vines to\nthe interplay between herbivory and support availability under different abiotic\nenvironments illustrating with one study case how results comply with a theoretical\nframework of behavioural ecology originally conceived for animals. I conclude\nstressing that climbing plants are suitable study subjects for the application of\nbehavioural-ecological theory. Further research under this framework should aim at\ncharacterizing the different stages of the support finding process in terms of their fit\nwith the different climbing modes and environmental settings. In particular cost-\nbenefit analysis of climbing plant behaviour should be helpful to infer the selective\npressures that have operated to shape current climber ecological communities.