Tang, A.M.C., Corlett, R.T., Hyde, K.D. (2005). The persistence of ripe fleshy fruits in the presence and absence of frugivores.
A trade-off between antimicrobial defences and palatability to dispersers may place limits on fruit persistence in nature. The retention times of ripe fruits on 34 wild plant species under natural conditions (unbagged persistence) and when fruits had been bagged with nylon mesh to exclude frugivores (bagged persistence) were compared in Hong Kong, China (22 degrees N). Bagged persistence is a measure of the effectiveness of fruit defence while unbagged persistence is an inverse measure of attractiveness to vertebrate frugivores. Bagged fruits persisted significantly longer than unbagged fruits in 30 species, with half the species tested persisting for more than 2 months. There was a significant positive relationship between the median persistence times of bagged and unbagged fruits, suggesting that species with a high resistance to microbial infection are also less attractive to frugivores. Both bagged and unbagged fruits persisted significantly longer at lower temperatures. There was a significant positive relationship between bagged persistence time and fibre content of the fruit pulp, but no significant relationships between unbagged persistence and the six fruit traits tested (diameter, pulp as a percentage of fruit fresh weight, and lipid, total soluble carbohydrate, nitrogen and fibre as percentages of pulp dry weight). Mechanical damage significantly decreased the bagged persistence time for half of the species. Although some fruits decayed or dried up while attached to the plant, fruits of 53% of the species remained visually attractive until they fell off.