The effect of spatio-temporal variation in understanding the fruit crop size hypothesis


  • Raúl Ortiz-Pulido,

  • Victor Rico-Gray

R. Ortiz-Pulido and V. Rico-Gray (correspondence), Departamento de Ecologı´a Vegetal, Instituto de Ecologı´a, A.C., Apdo. 63, Xalapa, Veracruz 91000, Mexico.


In order to evaluate the ‘fruit crop size’ hypothesis, we analyzed the effect of fruit availability on the number of visits by birds and on the proportion of removed fruits, and on how much of the variation in the proportion of removed fruits could be explained by spatio-temporal variability. Fieldwork was done on the coast of the state of Veracruz, Mexico, using the small tree Bursera fagaroides (Burseraceae) and its frugivorous feeding assemblage, on four hills during four years. The number of fruits produced, the number of visits by birds, and the proportion of removed fruits varied between years with more than half an order of magnitude. The number of available fruits was associated to both the number of visits by birds and the proportion of fruits removed from each plant individual, and supports the fruit crop size hypothesis. However, the hypothesis varies in strength depending on total fruit production by the population per year and per hill. The spatio-temporal variation of the system was the effect of variation in the intensity of fructification between years and hills; the inclusion of spatio-temporal variability helped to explain most of the variation found in our results. The latter approach may explain the explain the conflicting results found by other authors in studies done in only one year or at one site, where variation is greatly reduced. Considering the number of published reports, a meta-analysis seems to be in order to determine the existence of a general effect between fruit production, the number of visits by birds and the proportion of fruits removed. If this is possible, we hypothezise that the association between fruit production and the number of visits by birds should be of low intensity.