The Paucity of Frugivores in Madagascar May Not Be Due to Unpredictable Temperatures or Fruit Resources.
The evolution of ecological idiosyncrasies in Madagascar has often been attributed to selective pressures stemming from extreme unpredictability in climate and resource availability compared to other tropical areas. With the exception of rainfall, few studies have investigated these assumptions. To assess the hypothesis that Madagascar's paucity of frugivores is due to unreliability in fruiting resources, we use statistical modeling to analyze phenology datasets and their environmental correlates from two tropical wet forests, the Réserve Naturelle Intégrale Betampona in Madagascar, and Kibale National Park in Uganda. At each site we found that temperature is a good environmental predictor of fruit availability. We found no evidence of a significant difference in the predictability of fruit availability between the two sites, although the shorter duration of phenological monitoring at Betampona (two years, versus 15 years at Kibale) limits our ability to infer long-term patterns. Comparisons of long-term temperature data from each site (15 years from Kibale and 14 from Betampona) indicate that temperature is more predictable at Betampona than at Kibale. However, there does appear to be a difference between the two sites in the total fruit availability at any given time, with fruit being generally less abundant at Betampona. Our results appear contrary to the prevailing hypothesis of a selective force imposed by unpredictable resource availability or temperature, and we suggest other possible explanations for Madagascar's unique biota.
Federman, S; Sinnott-Armstrong, M; Baden, AL; Chapman, CA; Daly, DC; Richard, AR; Valenta, K; Donoghue, MJ
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