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Mechanisms of specialization in plant-frugivore interactions: the case of euphonias and epiphytes in the Atlantic Forest

Grant number: 13/26089-8
Support type:Regular Research Grants
Duration: August 01, 2014 - July 31, 2016
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology
Principal researcher:Marco Aurelio Pizo Ferreira
Grantee:Marco Aurelio Pizo Ferreira
Home Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Rio Claro. Rio Claro , SP, Brazil
Assoc. researchers:Ariovaldo Pereira da Cruz-Neto ; Luis Gerardo Herrera Montalvo


Understanding specialization (i.e., the limitation in the number of other species with which a particular species interacts) in plant-animal interactions is a central issue for the comprehension of evolution and maintenance of biotic interactions. Few cases of specialization among frugivorous animals and the fruits they eat are known, but the mechanisms promoting specialization remain elusive. Recently we studied the specialization involving birds in the genus Euphonia and epiphytic cacti in the genus Rhipsalis in the Atlantic forest. We suspect that this specialization is related to the digestive physiology of euphonias, highly specialized for the consumption of fruits, and the chemical profile of Rhipsalis fruits, characterized by large amounts of water and low levels of lipids, sugars and proteins. Scattered evidences in the literature suggest that similar specialized relationships may involve euphonias and other epiphytes, particularly in the families Araceae and Bromeliaceae. The general goal of this proposal is to evaluate the extent of and the underlying mechanisms associated with the interaction between euphonias and epiphytes in the Atlantic forest. We will combine field observations and laboratory experiments with captive birds to answer the following questions: (1) which is the contribution of euphonias (relative to other birds) to the consumption (and likely seed dispersal) of epiphyte fruits?, (2) which is the contribution of epiphytes (relative to other fruits) to the diet of euphonias?, (3) Do euphonias and other frugivorous birds compensate food intake when fed Rhipsalis fruits to meet their daily energy requirements?, (4) Do euphonias have lower N requirements than other frugivorous birds?, and (5) Do euphonias get enough N from Rhipsalis fruits to maintain a positive N balance? By answering these questions we intend to shed light on a poorly known and hitherto greatly speculative topic in the study of plant-animal interactions: the mechanisms behind the specialized relationship between frugivores and plants. (AU)

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Scientific publications
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
CRESTANI, ANA C.; PIZO, MARCO A.; FONTANELLA, ANTONIO B. A.; HERRERA M, L. GERARDO; CRUZ-NETO, ARIOVALDO P.. ugar and nitrogen digestive processing does not explain the specialized relationship between euphonias and low-quality fruit. JOURNAL OF AVIAN BIOLOGY, v. 52, n. 11, . (14/16320-7, 13/26089-8, 17/17607-6)

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