Background: Figs are key resources for tropical frugivores and display unique fruiting patterns. While monoecious figs support both seeds and wasp rearing, dioecious plants perform the tasks separately and produce seeded figs in smaller asynchronous crops. Thus dioecious females, compared to monoecious figs, may afford to invest more efforts to maximize seediness, or increase fruit pulp, water content, and nutrient rewards to attract frugivores for better seed dispersal. Yet size variation among and within fig species in either breeding system may lead to complicated resource allocation. We assessed fruiting phenology, measured fig morphological traits, and analyzed fig nutrient contents of the monoecious Ficus caulocarpa and F. subpisocarpa and the dioecious F. ampelas and F. irisana in a sympatric tropical forest to investigate species differences and size effects on fig functional traits and their ecological correlates. Results: All four species fruited nearly year-round. Monoecious figs’ inter-tree asynchronous crops had high peak mature crop sizes over much shorter fruiting periods than dioecious figs. Among trees, F. subpisocarpa and F. irisana were greater in fig-size and size variation, F. caulocarpa and F. ampelas comparatively displayed large variation in fig compositions. As fig size increased, water contents gradually increased in large-fig species, but seediness with a decreasing trend in small-fig species. Dioecious figs had lower pulp-seed ratio but tended to have higher water contents than monoecious figs, particularly within a similar size range. Dioecious figs also had higher carbohydrates, whereas monoecious figs contained higher fiber and lipid contents. Conclusions: Our study revealed species differences in certain fig functional traits that were correlated with fig size or their breeding systems, with substantial inter-tree variation. This partially supported the predictions regarding their fruiting strategies of aiding seed dispersal by frugivores, yet suggests a fruiting plasticity of individual trees subject to environmental constraints and their biotic interactions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science