From ratites to rats: the size of fleshy fruits shapes species’ distributions and continental rainforest assembly

Maurizio Rossetto*, Robert Kooyman, Jia Yee S Yap, Shawn W. Laffan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Seed dispersal is a key process in plant spatial dynamics. However, consistently applicable generalizations about dispersal across scales are mostly absent because of the constraints on measuring propagule dispersal distances for many species. Here, we focus on fleshy-fruited taxa, specifically taxa with large fleshy fruits and their dispersers across an entire continental rainforest biome. We compare species-level results of whole-chloroplast DNA analyses in sister taxawith large and small fruits, to regional plot-based samples (310 plots), and whole-continent patterns for the distribution of woody species with either large (more than 30 mm) or smaller fleshy fruits (1093 taxa). The pairwise genomic comparison found higher genetic distances between populations and between regions in the large-fruited species (Endiandra globosa), but higher overall diversitywithin the small-fruited species (Endiandra discolor). Floristic comparisons among plots confirmed lower numbers of large-fruited species in areas where more extreme rainforest contraction occurred, and recolonization by small-fruited species readily dispersed by the available fauna. Species’ distribution patterns showed that larger-fruited species had smaller geographical ranges than smaller-fruited species and locationswith stable refugia (and high endemism) aligned with concentrations of large fleshy-fruited taxa, making them a potentially valuable conservation-planning indicator.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20151998
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1820
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2015


  • Australia
  • chloroplast genome
  • dispersal
  • fruit size
  • next generation sequencing
  • rainforest assembly


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