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Anachronic Fruit Traits and Natural History Suggest Extinct Megafauna Herbivores as the Dispersers of an Endangered Tree

1
Departamento de Ciencias Agrarias, Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias y Forestales, Universidad Católica del Maule, 3341695 Curicó, Chile
2
Escuela de Agronomía, Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias y Forestales, Universidad Católica del Maule, 3341695 Curicó, Chile
3
Instituto de Investigación Multidisciplinario en Ciencia y Tecnología, Universidad de La Serena, 1720256 La Serena, Chile
4
Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB), 7800003 Santiago, Chile
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Plants 2020, 9(11), 1492; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9111492
Received: 7 October 2020 / Revised: 28 October 2020 / Accepted: 3 November 2020 / Published: 5 November 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Plant Ecology)
Megafaunal seed dispersal syndrome refers to a group of traits attributed to the evolution of plants in the presence of large mammals. Present-day plants that bear these traits in areas where megafauna are absent are presumed to represent anachronic dispersal systems. Gomortega keule is an endangered tree species from a monotypic family (Gomortegaceae), endemic to Chile. Its fruit traits suggest adaptation to seed dispersal by large vertebrates; however, none are present today along its area of distribution. Here, we conducted a detailed revision on the fruit morphology of G. keule to examine whether its fruit traits fit a megafaunal dispersal syndrome. Additionally, we examined the fruit processing behavior of large domestic and captive wild animals fed with G. keule fruits, and its effect on germination. G. keule fruits had traits consistent with those of a Type 1 megafaunal fruit. Compared to intact, whole stones, seed germination probabilities decreased when fruits were handled by animals, suggesting that the seed was damaged during mastication and/or ingestion. Moreover, results from our feeding trials with elephants may also imply low efficiency of extinct gomphotheres as seed dispersers of this species. Our results also suggest that although domestic animals may disperse G. keule, it is unlikely that at present they can substitute the services of its original dispersers. Further investigation on seedling survival, local livestock management and forest management practices may help reinstate sexual regeneration in G. keule. Finally, integrating observations on fruit ecology and local people’s knowledge with experimental data enriches our species-centered approach and may help to address regeneration problems in other endangered plants. View Full-Text
Keywords: anachronism; megafaunal syndrome; seed dispersal; fruit ecology; Gomortega keule anachronism; megafaunal syndrome; seed dispersal; fruit ecology; Gomortega keule
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MDPI and ACS Style

Muñoz-Concha, D.; Muñoz, K.; Loayza, A.P. Anachronic Fruit Traits and Natural History Suggest Extinct Megafauna Herbivores as the Dispersers of an Endangered Tree. Plants 2020, 9, 1492. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9111492

AMA Style

Muñoz-Concha D, Muñoz K, Loayza AP. Anachronic Fruit Traits and Natural History Suggest Extinct Megafauna Herbivores as the Dispersers of an Endangered Tree. Plants. 2020; 9(11):1492. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9111492

Chicago/Turabian Style

Muñoz-Concha, Diego; Muñoz, Karla; Loayza, Andrea P. 2020. "Anachronic Fruit Traits and Natural History Suggest Extinct Megafauna Herbivores as the Dispersers of an Endangered Tree" Plants 9, no. 11: 1492. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9111492

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