Cecropia as a food resource for bats in French Guiana and the significance of fruit structure in seed dispersal and longevity

Cecropia (Cecropiaceae) is a Neotropical genus of pioneer plants. A review of bat/plant dispersal interactions revealed that 15 species of Cecropia are consumed by 32 species of bats. In French Guiana, bats were captured in primary and secondary forests, yielding 936 fecal samples with diaspores, among which 162 contained fruits of C. obtusa, C. palmata, and C. sciadophylla.

Infos Guyane Blog gives you a comparative morphological and anatomical study of fruits and seeds taken directly from herbarium specimens, bat feces, and an experimental soil seed bank was made.

Contrary to previous reports, the dispersal unit of Cecropia is the fruit not the seed. Bats consume the infructescence, digest pulp derived from the enlarged, fleshy perianth, and defecate the fruits. The mucilaginous pericarp of Cecropia is described. The external mucilage production of Cecropia may facilitate endozoochory.

The exocarp and part of the mesocarp may be lost after passage through the digestive tract of bats, but fruits buried for a year in the soil seed bank remain structurally unchanged.
Fruit characters were found to be useful for identifying species of bat-dispersed Cecropia. Bat dispersal is not necessary for seed germination but it increases seed survival and subsequent germination. Fruit structure plays a significant role in seed longevity.