Seed diseprsal by animals is an important ecological service. How selective or general the animals are in their choice of fruits to eat might have a huge effect on dispersal of the plants. Read more in the new Early View paper “Individual variation in resource use by opossums leading to nested fruit consumption” by Mauricio Cantor et al.
Here is the authors’ own summary of the paper:
Seed dispersal by fruit-eating vertebrates is an important ecological service that has consequences for the plant community and regeneration process. Despite recent findings on the ecological relevance of within population diet variation far less attention has been devoted to the role diet variation for ecological services, such as seed dispersal. In this paper we unravel fruit consumption patterns by the white-eared opossum (Didelphis albiventris), a South American didelphid, which is regarded as an important seed disperser commonly found in disturbed environments, where vegetal regeneration is especially required.
We detected fruit consumption patterns suggesting these opossums may differ in their degree of fruit selectivity what may result in heterogeneity in seed dispersal efficiency within the population. In this sense, the actual result of the seed dispersal provided by these animals probably differs from what one would expect from the average behavior of the population. The result of such heterogeneity would probably be dependent on the proportion of opportunistic and selective individuals in the population. This frequency-dependent seed dispersal may have implications to both plant individuals and species, affecting plant performance and the local plant community composition.