, Volume 123, Issue 4, pp 560-568

Fruit characteristics and factors affecting fruit removal in a Panamanian community of strangler figs

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We describe fruiting characteristics for 12 species in a community of strangler figs (Moraceae: Urostigma) studied in Panama. We quantify diurnal and nocturnal removal rates and proportions of fruits removed, and relate them to the activities of the main dispersers of the figs: bats and birds. These results combined with previous studies show that there are clear differences between fig species with fruit that ripen red and those with fruit that remain green(ish). In the red-fruited species, the fruit are small, ripen asynchronously over relatively long periods, produce little scent, and are mainly taken during the day by birds. In contrast, in the green(ish)-fruited species, the fruits are larger, span a range of sizes, ripen relatively synchronously, produce very distinctive aromas, and are mainly taken at night by bats. This dichotomy in fruiting characteristics suggests coadaptive links between groups of dispersers and different species within the genus Ficus. All fig species produce a range of fruit crop sizes (10–155 fuits/m2 canopy area) of which a high proportion were removed by seed dispersers (>80%). Removal rates (fruit removed per day) were positively correlated with crop size, suggesting that trees with large crop size attract more frugivores. Removal rates of green-fruited figs were significantly lower and persistence and abortion of ripe fruit were significant higher around full moon, apparently due to the reduced activity of bats. We further estimate the number of bats that are sustained by a tree fruit crop and account for the observed fruit removal. We then discuss the evidence for coadaptation between different groups of figs and their seed dispersers, Finally, we consider the conservation implications for figs as keystone resources in tropical forests.

Received: 26 April 1999 / Accepted: 10 January 2000