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Evolution of plant-animal interactions: a comparison of mainland-island fleshy-fruits characteristics


The principal aim of the proposed study will be to know the micro and macro evolutionary role of frugivorous vertebrates species as potential selective agents promoting changes in the fleshy-fruit characteristics in a comparative context (island-mainland), rarely take into account in previous studies. Ecological conditions acting in each situation (basically related to species number and taxonomie composition) determine strong differences in the structure of the frugivorous network in each site. These well differentiated ecological situations would help us to clarify the evolutionary consequences of the change in the principal mutualistics agents (mammals, birds or lizards) acting in the seed dispersal process (aspect that present some controversy, possibly related with the magnitude and scale of the study). Besides, to include information about the phenotypic selection pattern exerted by frugivorous vertebrates in these well contrasted situations, this controversy could be clarified. The plant species and po pulations inhabiting the Mediterranean Basin and Canary Island offers us a ideal framework to test general hypothesis (micro and macroevolutionary) about the role of seed dispersers species in the evolution of some fruits traits allowing similitude (or dif ferences) in the patterns of phenotypic selection exerted by frugivorous species. Besides, to use this comparative context, we gain in advantage because will be possible to study determined couples of plant species characterized by differences in the degre e and magnitude of the frugivore communities. This mean, plant species groups (or populations) without any substantial differences in the frugivorous guild in both places, others comparisons where the endemic laurel pigeons inhabiting the Canary Islands ac ts as important seed disperser agents, and finally, situations where Canarian lizards feed intensively on fleshy fruits in some insular plant species or populations.

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Serrano 117

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