Specialized Seed Dispersal in Epiphytic Cacti and Convergence with Mistletoes

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Mistletoes represent the best example of specialization in seed dispersal, with a reduced assemblage of dispersal agents. Specific dispersal requirements mediated by the specificity of seed deposition site have apparently led to the evolution of such close relationships between mistletoes and certain frugivores. Here, we provide evidences for another case of specialization involving epiphytic cacti in the genus Rhipsalis, and small Neotropical passerines Euphonia spp., which also act as the main seed dispersers of mistletoes in the family Viscaceae. With field observations, literature search, and observations on captive birds, we demonstrated that Rhipsalis have specific establishment requirements, and euphonias are the most effective dispersers of Rhipsalis seeds in both quantitative and qualitative aspects, potentially depositing seeds onto branches of host plants. We interpret the similar dispersal systems of Rhipsalis and Viscaceae mistletoes, which involve the same dispersal agents, similar fruit morphologies, and fruit chemistry as convergent adaptive strategies that enable seeds of both groups to reach adequate microsites for establishment in host branches. © 2013 by The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.



Atlantic Forest, Brazil, Convergent evolution, Euphonia, Frugivory, Rhipsalis, Seed germination, cactus, convergent evolution, epiphyte, frugivory, germination, host plant, literature review, morphology, parasite, seed, seed dispersal, songbird, specialization, Aves, Cactaceae, Passeri, Santalaceae, Viscum album

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Biotropica, v. 45, n. 4, p. 465-473, 2013.