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Ecology. 2006 Feb;87(2):271-6.

Flying foxes cease to function as seed dispersers long before they become rare.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. kimmcconkey@yahoo.co.nz

Abstract

Rare species play limited ecological roles, but particular behavioral traits may predispose species to become functionally extinct before becoming rare. Flying foxes (Pteropodid fruit bats) are important dispersers of large seeds, but their effectiveness is hypothesized to depend on high population density that induces aggressive interactions. In a Pacific archipelago, we quantified the proportion of seeds that flying foxes dispersed beyond the fruiting canopy, across a range of sites that differed in flying fox abundance. We found the relationship between ecological function (seed dispersal) and flying fox abundance was nonlinear and consistent with the hypothesis. For most trees in sites below a threshold abundance of flying foxes, flying foxes dispersed < 1% of the seeds they handled. Above the threshold, dispersal away from trees increased to 58% as animal abundance approximately doubled. Hence, flying foxes may cease to be effective seed dispersers long before becoming rare. As many species' populations decline worldwide, identifying those with threshold relationships is an important precursor to preservation of ecologically effective densities.

PMID:
16637350
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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