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Oecologia

, Volume 155, Issue 2, pp 277–286 | Cite as

Does attraction to frugivores or defense against pathogens shape fruit pulp composition?

  • Eliana Cazetta
  • H. Martin Schaefer
  • Mauro Galetti
Plant-Animal Interactions - Original Paper

Abstract

Fruit traits evolve in response to an evolutionary triad between plants, seed dispersers, and antagonists that consume fruits but do not disperse seeds. The defense trade-off hypothesis predicts that the composition of nutrients and of secondary compounds in fruit pulp is shaped by a trade-off between defense against antagonists and attraction to seed dispersers. The removal rate model of this hypothesis predicts a negative relationship between nutrients and secondary compounds, whereas the toxin-titration model predicts a positive relationship. To test these alternative models, we evaluated whether the contents of nutrients and secondary compounds can be used to predict fruit removal by mutualists and pathogens in 14 bird-dispersed plants on a subtropical island in São Paulo state, southeastern Brazil. We selected eight to ten individuals of each species and prevented fruit removal by covering four branches with a net and left fruits on four other branches available to both, vertebrate fruit consumers and pathogens. The persistence of ripe fruits was drastically different among species for bagged and open fruits, and all fruit species persisted longer when protected against seed dispersers. We found that those fruits that are quickly removed by vertebrates are nutrient-rich, but although the attack rate of pathogens is also high, these fruits have low contents of quantitative defenses such as tannins and phenols. Thus, we suggest that the fruit removal rate by seed dispersers is the primary factor selecting the levels of fruit defense. Likewise, nutrient-poor fruits have low removal of seed dispersers and low probability of attack by pathogens. These species retain ripe fruits in an intact condition for a prolonged period because they are highly defended by secondary compounds, which reduce overall attractiveness. However, this strategy might be advantageous for plants that depend on rare or unreliable dispersers.

Keywords

Fruit pathogens Fruit removal Secondary compounds Plant–animal interactions 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Dr. Douglas Levey for help in statistical analysis and Dr. Josi Roberto Trigo for help in chemical analysis. This project received financial support from FAPESP (Proc. 05/52726-9). E. Cazetta thanks FAPESP (Proc. 03/08447-2) and M. Galetti receives a fellowship from CNPq. E. Cazetta and H. M. Schaefer received a DAAD fellowship for field work and was supported by DFG grant (Scha 1008/4-1) during this project. All experiments comply with the current Brazilian laws.

Supplementary material

442_2007_917_MOESM1_ESM.doc (114 kb)
Appendix) Morphological and nutritional fruit traits of the 14 plant species evaluated on Ilha do Cardoso. (DOC 114 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eliana Cazetta
    • 1
  • H. Martin Schaefer
    • 2
  • Mauro Galetti
    • 1
  1. 1.Plant Phenology and Seed Dispersal Research Group. Departamento de EcologiaUniversidade Estadual Paulista - UNESPRio ClaroBrazil
  2. 2.Faculty of BiologyUniversity of Freiburg, Evolutionary Biology and Animal EcologyFreiburgGermany

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