Fruit sizes and the structure of frugivorous communities in a New Guinea lowland rainforest: Frugivorous Insects in New Guinea

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Austral Ecology, ISSN: 1442-9985, Vol: 41, Issue: 3, Page: 228-237

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Richard Ctvrtecka; Katerina Sam; Scott E. Miller; George D. Weiblen; Vojtech Novotny
Agricultural and Biological Sciences; Environmental Science
article description
A community of frugivorous insects was studied by rearing of 25565 individual insects representing three orders (Coleoptera, Lepidoptera and Diptera except Drosophilidae) from 326 woody plant species in a lowland rainforest in Papua New Guinea. Fruits from 19.3% of plant species were not attacked by any insect order, 33.4% of plant species were attacked by a single order, 30% by two orders and 17.2% by all three orders. The likelihood of attack by individual orders was positively correlated so that a higher proportion of plant species than expected suffered either no attack at all or was attacked by all three insect orders. Fruits from most of the plant species exhibited low rates of attack and low densities of insects. One kilogram of fruit was attacked on average by 11 insects, including three to four Coleoptera, six Diptera and one Lepidoptera. Thus, we reared on average one insect from 10 fruits, including one Diptera from 14 fruits, one Coleoptera from 22 fruits and one Lepidoptera from 100 fruits. Only 72 out of the 326 plant species hosted more than one insect per 10 fruits, and only seven species supported a density of greater than one insect per fruit. Our results suggest that specialized insect seed predators are probably too rare to maintain the diversity of vegetation by density-dependent mortality of seeds as suggested by the Janzen-Connell hypothesis. Fruit weight, fruit volume, mesocarp volume, seed volume and fleshiness had no significant effect on the probability that a fruit would be attacked by an insect frugivore. However, fruits attacked by Diptera were significantly larger and had larger volume of both mesocarp and seeds than fruits attacked by Coleoptera and Lepidoptera.