Nutrient costs of vertebrate- and ant-dispersed fruits

L. Hughes, M. Westoby, A. D. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


In Australia, plant species with fleshy fruits adapted for dispersal by vertebrates are concentrated on fertile soils and species adapted for dispersal by ants on infertile soils. Nutrient concentrations were compared in the dispersal structures of 22 elaiosome-bearing, 29 fleshy-fruited and five arillate plant species. K and N were the only nutrients that significantly separated the different dispersal structures. K concentration in the fleshy pulp of vertebrate-dispersed diaspores was significantly higher than in elaisomes of ant-dispersed diaspores. N content of elaiosomes was significantly higher than of flesh. N and K content of arils was similar to that of elaiosomes but was significantly different from fleshy pulp. Plant species with different dispersal modes, growing at the same site, showed the same differences in K and N concentrations. The hypothesis that fleshy fruit production is limited by the availability of a specific nutrient or nutrients was therefore rejected for all nutrients except K. An examination of dispersal spectra in relation to K availability, rather than to general soil fertility may help explain the observed correlation between dispersal mode and soil fertility in Australia and South Africa. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-62
Number of pages9
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1993


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