Endozoochory, a mutualistic interaction between plants and frugivores, is one of the key processes responsible for maintenance of tropical biodiversity. Islands, which have a smaller subset of plants and frugivores when compared with mainland communities, offer an interesting setting to understand the organization of plant-frugivore communities vis-a-vis the mainland sites. We examined the relative influence of functional traits and phylogenetic relationships on the plant-seed disperser interactions on an island and a mainland site. The island site allowed us to investigate the organization of the plant-seed disperser community in the natural absence of key frugivore groups (bulbuls and barbets) of Asian tropics. The endemic Narcondam Hornbill was the most abundant frugivore on the island and played a central role in the community. Species strength of frugivores (a measure of relevance of frugivores for plants) was positively associated with their abundance. Among plants, figs had the highest species strength and played a central role in the community. Island-mainland comparison revealed that the island plant-seed disperser community was more asymmetric, connected, and nested as compared to the mainland community. Neither phylogenetic relationships nor functional traits (after controlling for phylogenetic relationships) were able to explain the patterns of interactions between plants and frugivores on the island or the mainland pointing toward the diffused nature of plant-frugivore interactions. The diffused nature is a likely consequence of plasticity in foraging behavior and trait convergence that contribute to governing the interactions between plants and frugivores. This is one of the few studies to compare the plant-seed disperser communities between a tropical island and mainland and demonstrates key role played by a point-endemic frugivore in seed dispersal on island.
Keywords: Narcondam Hornbill; community phylogenetics; insular communities; plant–frugivore interactions; seed dispersal.
© 2021 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.