The insect-focused classification of fruit syndromes in tropical rain forests: An inter-continental comparison

Chris Dahl, Richard Ctvrtecka, Sofia Gripenberg, Owen T. Lewis, Simon T. Segar, Petr Klimes, Katerina Sam, Dominic Rinan, Jonah Filip, Roll Lilip, Pitoon Kongnoo, Montarika Panmeng, Sutipun Putnaul, Manat Reungaew, Marleny Rivera, Hector Barrios, Stuart J. Davies, Sarayudh Bunyavejchewin, Joseph S. Wright, George D. WeiblenVojtech Novotny, Yves Basset

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose a new classification of rain forest plants into eight fruit syndromes, based on fruit morphology and other traits relevant to fruit-feeding insects. This classification is compared with other systems based on plant morphology or traits relevant to vertebrate fruit dispersers. Our syndromes are based on fruits sampled from 1,192 plant species at three Forest Global Earth Observatory plots: Barro Colorado Island (Panama), Khao Chong (Thailand), and Wanang (Papua New Guinea). The three plots differed widely in fruit syndrome composition. Plant species with fleshy, indehiscent fruits containing multiple seeds were important at all three sites. However, in Panama, a high proportion of species had dry fruits, while in New Guinea and Thailand, species with fleshy drupes and thin mesocarps were dominant. Species with dry, winged seeds that do not develop as capsules were important in Thailand, reflecting the local importance of Dipterocarpaceae. These differences can also determine differences among frugivorous insect communities. Fruit syndromes and colors were phylogenetically flexible traits at the scale studied, as only three of the eight seed syndromes, and one of the 10 colors, showed significant phylogenetic clustering at either genus or family levels. Plant phylogeny was, however, the most important factor explaining differences in overall fruit syndrome composition among individual plant families or genera across the three study sites. Abstract in Melanesian is available with online material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-49
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to our colleagues of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, (BCI, Panama), Khao Chong Botanical Garden (Thailand), and Binatang Research Centre and Wanang Conservation area (Papua New Guinea) for helping with this project which was funded by the Czech Science Foundation (GACR grant 16-20825S), the Center for Tropical Forest Science small grant scheme, the University of South Bohemia (grant GA JU 152/2016/P). The Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding (Biodiversity Institute of Ontario) and Southern China DNA Barcoding Center (Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences) assisted with DNA sequencing of insect specimens.


  • ForestGEO
  • fruit color
  • plant traits
  • seed dispersal
  • seed predation
  • tropical insects

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