DOI: 10.1002/ece3.10453 ISSN:

Multiscale variability in nutrients and secondary metabolites in a bat‐dispersed neotropical fruit

Mariana Gelambi, Susan R. Whitehead
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Ripe fleshy fruits contain not only nutrients but also a diverse array of secondary metabolites. Nutrients serve as a reward for mutualists, whereas defensive metabolites protect the fruit against pests and predators. The composition of these chemical traits is highly variable, both across different plants and even within repeating structures on the same individual plant. This intraspecific and intraindividual variation has important fitness consequences for both plants and animals, yet patterns of variation and covariation in nutrients and secondary metabolites are not well understood, especially at smaller scales. Here, we investigate the multiscale variation and covariation between nutrients and defensive metabolites in Piper sancti‐felicis ripe fruits. Means and measures of variation of sugars, proteins, phenolics, and alkenylphenols vary greatly among plants, and at least 50% of the trait variation occurs at the intraindividual level. Also, we found that proteins, but not sugars, were correlated with phenolics and alkenylphenols at multiple scales, suggesting trait variation in protein content may be more constrained than sugars. Our findings emphasize the importance of examining patterns across scales and provide the groundwork to better understand how complex patterns of variation and covariation in nutrients and defensive metabolites shape ecological interactions surrounding fruits.

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