Associations between manakin lek breeding systems and fruiting plant distributions in northwestern Ecuador
The distributions of tropical plant and animal communities are intrinsically linked through the reciprocal and dynamic processes of food acquisition and seed dispersal. Lekking species often exhibit sex-specific patterns of distribution and habitat use related to differential commitments to display activities. Display courts may be associated with distinct vegetative communities as a result of both resource-based establishment and directed dispersal by resident males. We sampled the mature, fruiting plant communities in male display courts and control sites to determine if display courts represented areas of high fruit biomass and diversity in relation to surrounding forest. We also compared this data to surveys from non-court lek areas to explore potential scale-dependent differences in plant communities. Our results show that display courts had more fruiting resources (fruit biomass, number of fruiting plants, and fruit biomass per individual plant) compared to control plots; leks showed a near-significant trend of more fruiting resources compared to control plots. Moreover, display courts also contained a greater total abundance of Melastomataceae plants compared to control plots. Finally, display courts contained a greater diversity of fruiting species compared to control plots. We conclude that a clear association exists between M. manacus display territories and fruit abundance and diversity in the Ecuadorian Chocó. These non-random spatial associations may reflect both past preferences for court establishment near fruiting resources and current mechanisms of seed dispersal that maintain distinct plant communities within courts.