Fruit–frugivore interactions in two southern hemisphere forests: allometry, phylogeny and body size


  • Kevin C. Burns,

  • Babs Lake

K. C. Burns ( and B. Lake, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria Univ. of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand.


The size of fleshy fruits spans several orders of magnitude. However, the evolution of fruit size diversity is poorly understood. Fruit size diversity is hypothesised to result from several potential processes. The frugivore hypothesis postulates that different-sized animal fruit consumers select for different-sized fruits. The correlated selection hypothesis postulates that fruit size is allometrically related to other plant traits (e.g. leaf size, plant height); therefore differences in fruit size result from correlated evolution with other plant traits. We tested the frugivore and correlated selection hypotheses as potential explanations for fruit size diversity in two New Zealand study sites. We observed birds foraging for fruits over two fruiting seasons at each site and measured fruit size, leaf size and plant height in a total of 32 plant species. Relationships between average fruit size, leaf size, plant size and the average size of birds consuming each fruit species were then evaluated using phylogenetically independent contrasts. Similar results were obtained in both study sites. Fruit size was correlated with the size of avian fruit consumers, but was unrelated to leaf size or plant height. Therefore, results falsified the correlated selection hypothesis but failed to falsify the frugivore hypothesis. Although results suggest that frugivores may have influenced the evolution of fruit size in New Zealand, further study is needed to generate a mechanistic understanding of how frugivores may have selected for interspecific variation in fruit size.