Why sexual reproduction is so common despite major costs remains a widely debated evolutionary question. One of the most plausible potential explanations is the Red Queen hypothesis, which proposes that coevolving parasites can generate a selective advantage for sex. This hypothesis predicts that sexual reproduction should be most common where individuals experience a relatively high risk of parasitic infection.
We used a comparative approach to investigate heteroblasty in the Chatham Islands. Heteroblasty refers to abrupt changes in the morphology of leaves and shoots with plant height. Common on isolated islands such as New Caledonia and New Zealand, which once had flightless, browsing birds, heteroblasty is hypothesised to be an adaptation to deter bird browsing. The Chatham Islands are a small archipelago located 800 km off the east coast of New Zealand, which has clear floristic links to New Zealand.
The dispersal, germination and establishment of the New Zealand Loranthaceae (Alepis flavida, Peraxilla colensoi, P. tetrapetala, Ileostylus micranthus and Tupeia antarctica) were investigated. The most important bird dispersers were tui, bellbirds and silvereyes. These birds appear to provide reasonably good quality dispersal: fruits were swallowed whole and the seeds later defecated in germinable condition; birds tended to visit plants for only 1-2 minutes and eat a few mistletoe fruits each time.
Functional convergence of different communities in similar environments would be expected as an outcome of the operation of 'assembly rules'. At an ecological level, competitive exclusion would restrict the co-occurrence of species with similar niches. Repetition of competitive sorting on an evolutionary time scale might lead to character displacement.
Many types of birds regularly consume fleshy fruits and, as seed dispersers, perform important mutualistic services for plants. Some frugivorous birds have recently been introduced to geographic locales beyond their native range. Are non-native birds important frugivores in their introduced range? To answer this question, I observed native and introduced birds foraging for fruits in a New Zealand forest at approximately 5-day intervals for 5 years.