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PeerJ. 2016 Jun 15;4:e2126. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2126. eCollection 2016.

Myiarchus flycatchers are the primary seed dispersers of Bursera longipes in a Mexican dry forest.

Author information

1
Laboratorio Integral de Fauna Silvestre, Unidad Académica de Ciencias Químico Biológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero , Chilpancingo, Guerrero , Mexico.
2
Laboratorio de Evolución Molecular y Experimental, Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México , Mexico, DF , Mexico.
3
Laboratorio de Ecología, Unidad de Biotecnología y Prototipos, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México , Mexico, DF , Mexico.
4
Departamento de Biología, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa , Mexico, DF , Mexico.

Abstract

We evaluated the seed dispersal of Bursera longipes by birds along a successional gradient of tropical dry forest (TDF) in southwestern Mexico. B. longipes is an endemic tree to the TDF in the Balsas basin. The relative abundance of frugivorous birds, their frequency of visits to B. longipes and the number of removed fruits were recorded at three study sites with different stages of forest succession (early, intermediate and mature) characterized by distinct floristic and structural elements. Flycatchers of the Myiarchus and Tyrannus genera removed the majority of fruits at each site. Overall, visits to B. longipes were less frequent at the early successional site. Birds that function as legitimate dispersers by consuming whole seeds and regurgitating or defecating intact seeds in the process also remove the pseudoaril from seeds, thereby facilitating the germination process. The highest germination percentages were recorded for seeds that passed through the digestive system of two migratory flycatchers: M. cinerascens and M. nutingii. Perch plants, mainly composed of legumes (e.g., Eysenhardtia polystachya, Acacia cochliacantha, Calliandra eryophylla, Mimosa polyantha), serve also as nurse plants since the number of young individuals recruited from B. longipes was higher under these than expected by chance. This study shows that Myiarchus flycatchers are the most efficient seed dispersers of B. longipes across all successional stages. This suggests a close mutualistic relationship derived from adaptive processes and local specializations throughout the distribution of both taxa, as supported by the geographic mosaic theory of coevolution.

KEYWORDS:

Coevolution; Establishment; Flycatchers; Germination; Nurse plants; Restoration; Seedling

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