Frugivore-Mediated Selection in A Habitat Transformation Scenario

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Abstract

Plant-animal interactions are strong drivers of phenotypic evolution. However, the extent to which anthropogenic habitat transformation creates new selective scenarios for plant-animal interactions is a little explored subject. We examined the effects of native forest replacement by exotic Eucalyptus trees on the frugivore-mediated phenotypic selection coefficients imposed by the relict marsupial Dromiciops gliroides upon traits involved in frugivore attraction and germination success of the mistletoe Tristerix corymbosus (Loranthaceae). We found significant gradients for seed weight and sugar content along the native - transformed habitat gradient. While selection for larger seed weight was more relevant in native habitats, fruits with intermediate sugar content were promoted in transformed habitats. The spatial habitat structure and microclimate features such as the degree of sunlight received influenced the natural selection processes, as they correlated with the phenotypic traits analysed. The response of this plant-frugivore interaction to human disturbance seemed to be context-dependent, in which extremely transformed habitats would offer new opportunities for natural selection on dispersal-related traits. Even in recent transformation events like this, human disturbance acts as a strong contemporary evolution driver.

Original languageEnglish
Article number45371
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
DOIs
StatePublished - 28 Mar 2017

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