Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

Characteristics of vertebrate-dispersed fruits in Hong Kong

Richard T. Corletta1

a1 Department of Ecology and Biodiversity, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong


Hong Kong has a native angiosperm flora of approximately 1800 species, of which 27% (482 spp.) bear fleshy, presumably vertebrate-dispersed fruits, including 76% of the 337 tree and shrub species and 70% of the 103 climber species. Morphological characteristics were determined for 255 species and nutritional characteristics of the fruit pulp for 153 species. Most fruit species were black (45.1%) or red (24.3%) and 85.9% had a mean diameter <13 mm. Nutritional characteristics varied widely between species with ranges and median values as follows: pulp percentage (range 10.0–99.2%, median 69.2%), water content of pulp (11.1–94.0%, 78%), lipid (0–84.0%, 2.0%), soluble carbohydrate (4–88%, 53%), nitrogen (0.2–3.4%, 0.86%), neutral detergent fibre (1–44%, 14.3%). Fruit development time (50–360 d, 156 d) showed a negative correlation with lipid content, but no significant correlation with fruit or seed size. Principal components analysis of fruit characteristics was dominated by a trend from single-seeded fruits with a thin, lipid-rich pulp layer to multiple-seeded fruits with much, watery, carbohydrate-rich pulp. Birddispersed species cover the full range of fruit characteristics except those too large to swallow and too hard to peck bits from. Mammals (bats, civets and/or macaques) are known or suspected to consume most of the fruits too large for birds as well as many bird fruits but none with high-lipid content. Summer fruits (May—September) were significantly larger and had significantly higher seed size and carbohydrate content than winter fruits (November-March). Winter fruits took more than twice as long to develop as summer fruits.

(Accepted February 15 1996)