Has frugivory influenced the macroecology and diversification of a tropical keystone plant family?


Seed dispersal by fruit-eating animals is a pivotal ecosystem function in tropical forests, but the role that frugivores have played in the biogeography and macroevolution of species-rich tropical plant families remains largely unexplored. This project investigates how frugivory-relevant plant traits (e.g. fruit size, fruit color, fruit shape etc.) are distributed within the angiosperm family of palms (Arecaceae), how this relates to diversification rates, and whether and how it coincides with the global biogeographic distribution of vertebrate frugivores (birds, bats, primates, other frugivorous mammals) and their ecological traits (e.g. diet specialization, body size, flight ability, color vision etc.). Palms are particularly suitable because they are well studied, species-rich, characteristic of tropical rainforests, and dispersed by all groups of vertebrate seed dispersers. Using newly compiled data on species distributions and ecological traits in combination with phylogenies we will test (1) how fruit trait variability relates to palm phylogeny and other aspects of plant morphology (e.g. leaf size, plant height, growth form), (2) whether geographic variability in fruit traits correlates with geographic distributions of animal consumers and their traits, and (3) to what extent interaction-relevant plant traits are related to palm diversification rates. This combined macroecological and macroevolutionary approach allows novel insights into the global ecology and the evolution of a tropical keystone plant family. This is important for the conservation and sustainable management of tropical rainforests because palms are often key components of subsistence economies, ecosystem dynamics and carbon storage and therefore help to enhance nature?s goods, benefits and services to humanity.


Wetenschappelijk artikel

  • WD Kissling(2017): Has frugivory influenced the macroecology and diversification of a tropical keystone plant family? Research Ideas and Outcomes pp. e1494 - e1494 ISSN: 2367-7163.
  • WJ Baker, TLP Couvreur, J-C Svenning, S Faurby, WD Kissling, RE Onstein(2017): Frugivory-related traits promote speciation of tropical palms Nature Ecology & Evolution pp. 1903 - 1911 ISSN: 2397-334X.
  • H Balslev, MJ Macía, S Faurby, R Cámara-Leret, WD Kissling, B Göldel, N Rønsted, JC Svenning, CH Saslis-Lagoudakis(2017): Fundamental species traits explain provisioning services of tropical American palms Nature Plants pp. 16220 - 16220 ISSN: 2055-0278.

Publicatie bedoeld voor een breed publiek

Professionele publicatie






Dr. W.D. Kissling

Verbonden aan

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica, Instituut voor Biodiversiteit en Ecosysteem Dynamica - IBED


Dr. R.E. Onstein