Molecular insights into seed dispersal mutualisms driving plant population recruitment

Cristina Garcia Perez, Delphine Grivet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most plant species require mutualistic interactions with animals to fulfil their demographic cycle. In this regard frugivory (i.e., the intake of fruits by animals) enhances natural regeneration by mobilizing a large amount of seeds from source trees to deposition sites across the landscape. By doing so, frugivores move propagules, and the genotypes they harbour creating the spatial, ecological, and genetic environment under which subsequent recruitment proceeds. Recruitment patterns can be envisioned as the result of two density- and distance-dependent processes: seed dispersal and seed/seedling survival (the Janzen–Connell model). Population genetic studies add another layer of complexity for understanding the fate of dispersed propagules: the genetic relatedness among neighbouring seeds within a seed clump, a major outcome of frugivore activity, modifies their chances of germinating and surviving. Yet, we virtually ignore how the spatial distribution of maternal progenies and recruitment patterns relate with each other in frugivore-generated seed rains.

Here we focus on the critical role of frugivore-mediated seed dispersal in shaping the spatial distribution of maternal progenies in the seed rain. We first examine which genetic mechanisms underlying recruitment are influenced by the spatial distribution of maternal progenies. Next, we examine those studies depicting the spatial distribution of maternal progenies in a frugivore-generated seed rain. In doing so, we briefly review the most suitable analytical approaches applied to track the contribution of fruiting trees to the seed rain based on molecular data. Then we look more specifically at the role of distinct frugivore guilds in determining maternal genetic correlations and their expected consequences for recruitment patterns. Finally we posit some general conclusions and suggest future research directions that would provide a more comprehensive understanding of the ecological and evolutionary consequences of dispersal mutualisms in plant populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-640
JournalActa Oecologica
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011

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