Opportunism vs. specialization: the evolution of dispersal strategies in fleshy-fruited plants

T. H. Fleming, D. L. Venable, L. G.M. Herrera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


In this paper we address two questions concerning the interaction between fleshy-fruited plants and their seed dispersers: (1) What determines optimal disperser coterie size (designated as Ĉ) and (2) Why does disperser specialization occur along taxonomic lines? We review factors that affect the evolution of Ĉ and conclude that seed size and disperser quality (designated as Q) are especially important. We present a simple graphical model for determining Ĉ based on Q and conclude that Ĉ will be small (i.e. a specialized disperser strategy) when Q declines rapidly with increasing coterie size; Ĉ will be large when Q declines slowly with increasing coterie size. We construct a model based on fitness set theory to predict that specialization on particular vertebrate taxa (e.g. birds or mammals) will be favored when different disperser taxa are perfectly substitutable or antagonistic (sensu Tilman 1982); mixed-taxa coteries are favored when different disperser taxa are complementary. Finally, we predict that when conditions favor taxonomic specialization, plants will evolve bird fruits more often than bat or primate fruits because of the greater species richness of birds compared with bats and primates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-120
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1993


  • Coevolution
  • Dispersal coteries
  • Dispersal quality
  • Dispersal syndromes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Opportunism vs. specialization: the evolution of dispersal strategies in fleshy-fruited plants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this