Abstract Although pigeons from the genus Ducula are considered among the best avian dispersers of large seeds in Asia and the Pacific, little has been documented on their role. The early fate of dispersed and undispersed seeds of the large‐seeded tree Myristica hypargyraea A. Gray was studied in order to understand the advantage of seed dispersal by the Pacific Pigeon, Ducula pacifica Gmelin in Tonga. Frequency of visits by frugivores to fruiting trees and dispersal distance of seeds were measured. Pre‐dispersal vertebrate seed predation was assessed, then post‐dispersal predation was measured over 160 days. Overall, pre‐dispersal seed predation by parrots was low but variable among trees sampled. Most seeds (54.7%) in the study area were estimated to be dispersed by D. pacifica; 79.7% of those ingested were expelled directly beneath conspecific fruiting crowns, 20% were dispersed locally and < 0.3% were dispersed more than 300 m into a different forest type. Flying foxes (Pteropus tonganus Quoy and Gaimard) dispersed very few seeds (0.7%) and all were dropped below fruiting crowns. Between 4% and 39% of dispersed and undispersed seeds were still viable, or had established seedlings after 160 days. Most seeds had been removed or killed by rats, and seed survival was highest for locally dispersed seeds (approx. 20 m from source trees and within the M. hypargyraea forest). Although D. pacifica was the only frugivore observed to disperse seeds into this higher zone of survival, overall they did not confer a great advantage to seed survival since significant numbers of seeds/seedlings also persisted under fruiting crowns (27% under crowns compared with 39% locally dispersed). Nevertheless, D. pacifica was the only vector by which seeds were regularly moved within the M. hypargyraea forest and over longer distances, and hence, D. pacifica still plays a significant role in the regeneration of M. hypargyraea.
Austral Ecology – Wiley
Published: Jun 1, 2005
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