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Morphology predicts species' functional roles and their degree of specialization in plant–frugivore interactions

AuthorsDehling, D. Matthias; Jordano, Pedro CSIC ORCID CVN ; Schaefer, H. Martin; Böhning-Gaese, Katrin; Schleuning, Matthias
Keywordsmutualistic interactions
frugivorous birds
fleshy-fruited plants
functional diversity
ecological networks
Issue Date27-Jan-2016
PublisherRoyal Society (Great Britain)
CitationProceedings of the Royal Society of London - B 283(1823): 20152444 (2016)
AbstractSpecies' functional roles in key ecosystem processes such as predation, pollination or seed dispersal are determined by the resource use of consumer species. An interaction between resource and consumer species usually requires trait matching (e.g. a congruence in the morphologies of interaction partners). Species' morphology should therefore determine species' functional roles in ecological processes mediated by mutualistic or antagonistic interactions. We tested this assumption for Neotropical plant–bird mutualisms. We used a new analytical framework that assesses a species's functional role based on the analysis of the traits of its interaction partners in a multidimensional trait space. We employed this framework to test (i) whether there is correspondence between the morphology of bird species and their functional roles and (ii) whether morphologically specialized birds fulfil specialized functional roles. We found that morphological differences between bird species reflected their functional differences: (i) bird species with different morphologies foraged on distinct sets of plant species and (ii) morphologically distinct bird species fulfilled specialized functional roles. These findings encourage further assessments of species' functional roles through the analysis of their interaction partners, and the proposed analytical framework facilitates a wide range of novel analyses for network and community ecology.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2015.2444
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