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Timely insights on fruit-frugivore interactions

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A long-evolved mutualisitc partnership between plants and vertebrates has adapted most terrestrial plants to take advantage of the vagility of animals to move their seeds. The abundance and diversity of fruit resources influence the movement, behavior and dynamics of fruit-eating animals at population, ...

A long-evolved mutualisitc partnership between plants and vertebrates has adapted most terrestrial plants to take advantage of the vagility of animals to move their seeds. The abundance and diversity of fruit resources influence the movement, behavior and dynamics of fruit-eating animals at population, community and landscape scales. Factors governing frugivory and seed dispersal can be classified into two broad classes. Fruit traits (color, size, chemistry, architecture) are the ultimate factors that influence the types of frugivores which have a mutualistic interaction with a fruiting species. Thus, morphological and physiological fruit traits control whether any given species is more prone to be primarily dispersed (rarely exclusively dispersed) by birds, bats, primates, megafauna, etc. The second class is composed of proximate factors that include where and when fruits are available to be eaten by frugivores. The spatial arrangement of fruiting resources has been shown to be a strong determinant of the quantity of fruit removed from individual trees within populations. Locations with plants bearing more fruit and/or in fruiting neighbours offering higher diversity of resources for longer periods typically attract higher quantity and diversity of frugivorous animals and have more seeds dispersed. The spatial distribution of fruiting plants is also known to influence patterns of disperser movement and consequently, distribution of seeds in space. Facilitative and competitive interactions between fruiting species has been shown to be affected by variability in the aggregation of fruiting resources, frugivore abundance, behavior and habitat use.

While the spatial locations of adult plants are fixed, their fruiting phenologies are highly variable, resulting in changes in fruiting synchrony among neighbouring plants. Thus, spatial patterns of fruit availability change both within seasons and across years, altering the ranks of individual trees with respect to dispersal outcomes within a season and across years. This raises a number of questions about the relationship between fruiting seasonality, frugivore abundance, frequency and distribution of frugivory events, and frugivore and plant traits.. This research topic “Timely insights on fruit-frugivore interactions” aims to bring together research articles and reviews examining the effects of temporal dynamics of fruit-frugivore interactions and seed dispersal processes at different temporal scales, and their implications for dispersal and recruitment within populations and communities, including questions outlined below:

a. What factors influence temporal aggregation or synchronization/segregation of fruit availability within-seasons in plants species having a high degree of overlap in frugivore assemblages?
b. What conditions favor the evolution of fruiting season length? What is the relative role of frugivore-plant interactions and abiotic environmental factors?
c. Do plant or frugivore traits influence inter-annual fluctuations in fruiting?
d. What are the consequences of the temporal changes in spatial aggregation on seed dispersal outcomes, rates of spread and plant demography?
e. Can climate change decouple fruit-frugivore interactions, and alter seed dispersal rates?
f. What are the influences of altered seed dispersal rates on plant demography under climate change?


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