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Acta Botanica Brasilica

Print version ISSN 0102-3306

Abstract

MESSIAS, Patrícia Aparecida; VIDAL JR., João de Deus; KOCH, Ingrid  and  CHRISTIANINI, Alexander V.. Host specificity and experimental assessment of the early establishment of the mistletoe Phoradendron crassifolium (Pohl ex DC.) Eichler (Santalaceae) in a fragment of Atlantic Forest in southeast Brazil. Acta Bot. Bras. [online]. 2014, vol.28, n.4, pp.577-582. ISSN 0102-3306.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0102-33062014abb3523.

Mistletoe establishment relies heavily on a seed reaching a proper host plant. Small frugivorous birds usually disperse large numbers of mistletoe seeds. However, in the field, mistletoes are absent from some potential available hosts. We investigated whether the mistletoe Phoradendron crassifolium has some preferences for specific host trees in a fragment of Atlantic Forest in southeast Brazil. We surveyed 397 tree individuals of 50 species within 25 families. Seven of those species (14%) bore P. crassifolium infections. Although prevalence at the individual level was low (11.6%), there were marked deviations in infection levels among species and families. Most (87%) of the infections (40 of 46) occurred in species belonging to the families Anacardiaceae (Lithraea molleoides and Tapirira guianensis) and Siparunaceae (Siparuna guianensis), which nevertheless accounted for only 26% of the potential individual hosts (103 of 397). We also performed an experiment simulating bird behavior. We inoculated 480 mistletoe seeds to the bark of four potential hosts in field, following the fate of the seeds for five months. No differences in host preference were observed. The low specificity detected at the local level was confirmed by a survey of exsiccata collected over the geographical distribution of the mistletoe, suggesting that P. crassifolium prevalence is more dependent on dispersal limitation than on mistletoe-host compatibility.

Keywords : host compatibility; prevalence; seed dispersal; seed predation.

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