Currently, I am working with three interacting species (a plant, a bird, and a mammal) from the Chilean Temperate rainforest: a mistletoe (Tristerix corymbosus), a hummingbird (Sephanoides sephanioides), and the monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides). Now I am also including the plant-plant dynamics on my research, focused on the mistletoe-host relationship, particularly with Rhaphithamnus spinosus.
Tristerix corymbosus is a hemiparasitic mistletoe of the Loranthaceae family. This plant could be found in Chile and Argentina, ranging from 30ºS to 42ºS. At its northern portion (from Ovalle to Los Tilos) it is dispersed by a bird (Mimus thenca), but at its southern portion (from Los Queules to Huillinco) it is dispersed by a marsupial (Dromiciops gliroides). This species has a peculiar phenology, it flowers in winter and produces fruits in summer. This particular phenologic pattern is important to assure winter food resources for pollinating birds. This species requires endozoochorus seed dispersal in order to assure the seed deposition into a tree branch.
Photograph: Johana Villagra (2010)
The Green-backed firecrown (Sephanoides sephaniodes) is a small common hummingbird with a wide geographic distribution in Chile. It is recognized to be an important pollinator for many native plant species of the South American temperate forests. It also is the almost-exclusive pollinator of the mistletoe Tristerix corymbosus (less than 5% of the pollination services might be performed by bees). Given the winter-flowering phelonological pattern of T. corymbosus, this hummingbird depends on this species for food during scarcity periods. Also, T. corymbosus -despite being a self-compatible plant- depends heavily con S. sephaniodes for achieving pollen exchange and hence genetic flux.
Photograph: Francisco E. Fontúrbel (2008)
The monito del monte (Dromiciops glioroides Thomas) is an arboreal marsupial and the only extant living representative of the Microbiotheria Order, an ancient order of Gondwanian marsupials. This species is more related to the Australian marsupials rather than to the American ones. This marsupial is endemic from the austral temperate rainforests (39ºS to 42ºS), in a closer association with its forest habitat. It was assumed to be restricted to old-growth stands, but recent evident has pointed that it could also thrive in second-growth forests as long they retain some habitat structure. This marsupial is acknowledged as an important seed disperser because it could disperse at least 10 species of native plants. Hence, its role as a regeneration agent in degraded forests is promising for their recovery.
We have just published a complete review about this species! You can access it from HERE.
See where this species has been captured or seen at iNaturalist
Photograph: Jaime E. Jiménez (1984)
And this is how those three species interact: