Overview

Brief Summary

Dipteryx panamensis is a large canopy emergent tree found in primary forest that belongs to the Fabaceae family, sub family Papillionoideae. D. panamensis is endemic in lowland wet tropical ranging from Nicaragua to Colombia on the Atlantic side (Fournier 2003). When flowering the tree produces millions of pink lavender flowers with a distinct odor similar to sweet peas. The flowers are pollinated by at least 13 species of medium-to-large opportunistic bees but the flowers are known to be visited by 20 different species of bees (McDade 1994). D. panamensis produces single-seeded green drupes encased in a thick woody endocarp that are dispersed by a wide range of mammals. The Great Green Macaw and three rodent species also act as seed predators on the fruit of D. panamensis (De Steven & Putz 1984). D. panamensis is classified as a keystone species because of its fruiting during a time of food scarcity for frugivorous animals (Hanson et al. 2006). D. panamensis is currently classified as an endangered species according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES 2014). 

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Distribution

Endemic to the lowland wet tropical forests of the Caribbean from Nicaragua to Colombia (Fournier 2003). 

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Ecology

Habitat

Chocó-Darién Moist Forests Habitat

This taxon can be found in the Chocó-Darién moist forests ecoregion, one of the most species rich lowland areas on Earth, with exceptional abundance and endemism over a broad range of taxa including plants, birds, amphibians and arthropods. The biological distinctiveness is exceptional, with considerable biodiversity.

There are three principal geomorphologic types in the ecoregion: alluvial plains of recent origin, low mountains formed by the relatively recent dissection of sediments from the Tertiary and Pleistocene periods, and the complexes in mountain areas consisting of mesozoic rocks. The high precipitation and the topography mean that the ecoregion includes a complex of great hydrographic basins, the most important being those of the Atrato, Baudó, and San Juan Rivers and the Micay and Patía Rivers in the south. The force of the water in many of these rivers form deep gorges cutting through the mountains, creating spectacular rapids and waterfalls in the mountains. At lower elevations, large rivers become very wide and with many meanders. Given the high precipitation in the region, it is not surprising that the soils are severely leached and poor in nutrients. Most of the ecoregion has typical laterite soils with reddish clay, although the soils are younger and less leached in some areas, especially close to the base of the Andes and in the floodplains of the major rivers. Of particular botanical interest are the white clay soils in the region of Bajo Calima in Colombia, which are associated with the gigantic sclerophyllous leafed and unusually large fruited vegetation.

Depending on the altitudinal gradient, soil water content and the effect of the sea, there are various types of vegetation that make up the ecoregion. In broad terms, in the northern part of the ecoregion, the lowland rainforests correlate to the Brosimun utilis alliance, including communities dominated by the deciduous Cuipo tree (Cavanillesia platanifolia), the Espavé wild cashew (Anacardium excelsum), the Panamanian rubber tree (Castilla elastica), Brosimum guianense, Bombacopsis spp., Ceiba pentandra, Dipteryx panamensis, and others. In the undergrowth Mabea occidentalis, Clidemia spp., Conostegia spp. and Miconia spp. are abundant. In zones that are occasionally flooded, the Cativo (Prioria copaifera) flourishes as well. In the southern part of the ecoregion, these rainforests have multiple strata, with two layers of trees, lianas, and epiphytes with vigorous growth rates. The number of deciduous plants increases in the north and south, where there is a dry season, particularly near the coast. The forests at higher altitudes, starting at 600 meters, have communities with the following species: Guamos (Inga spp.), Billia columbiana, Brosimum sp., Sorocea spp., Jacaranda hesperia, Pourouma chocoana, Guatteria ferruginea, Cecropia spp., Elaegia utilis, and Brunellia spp.

There are at least 127 species of amphibians in the Choco-Darien, including the following endemic anuran species: Isla Bonita robber frog (Craugastor crassidigitus); Kokoe poison frog (Phyllobates aurotaenia NT), found on western slopes of the Cordillera Occidental , along the Ra­o San Juan drainage south to the Ra­o Raposo; Golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis EN); La Brea poison frog (Oophaga occultator); Andagoya robber frog (Pristimantis roseus); Antioquia beaked toad (Rhinella tenrec); Atrato glass frog (Hyalinobatrachium aureoguttatum); Blue-bellied poison arrow frog (Ranitomeya minuta); Colombian egg frog (Ctenophryne minor), known only to the in the upper Ra­o Saija drainage; Condoto stubfoot toad (Atelopus spurrelli VU); Flecked leaf frog (Phyllomedusa psilopygion); LeDanubio robber frog (Strabomantis zygodactylus). An endemic salamander present in the Choco-Darien is the Finca Chibigui salamander (Bolitoglossa medemi VU).

Some other non-endemic anurans found here are: Anatipes robber frog (Strabomantis anatipes); Banded horned treefrog (Hemiphractus fasciatus); Black-legged poison frog (Phyllobates bicolor NT); Horned marsupial frog (Gastrotheca cornuta EN), known for having the largest amphibian eggs in the world; El Tambo stubfoot toad (Atelopus longibrachius EN); Elegant stubfoot toad (Atelopus elegans CR). Endemic caecilians in the ecoregion include the Andagoya caecilian (Caecilia perdita).

There are a number of reptilian taxa within the ecoregion, including: Adorned graceful brown snake (Rhadinaea decorata); the endemic Black centipede snake (Tantilla nigra); Boulenger's least gecko (Sphaerodactylus scapularis VU); the endemic Iridescent ground snake (Atractus iridescens); the endemic Cauca coral snake (Micrurus multiscutatus); the endemic Colombian coral snake (Micrurus spurelli); the endemic Dark ground snake (Atractus melas); the endemic Colombian mud turtle (Atractus melas VU); and the endemic Echternacht's ameiva (Ameiva anomala).

There are 577 species of birds recorded; Tyrannidae is listed as the most diverse avian family, presenting 28 genera and 60 species within the ecoregion. The Choco-Daroemis is a center of avian endemism of the Neotropics; moreover, according to Stattersfield, this ecoregion spans two Endemic Bird Areas, one in Central America and one in South America.

Between these two Endemic Bird Areas there are over sixty restricted range species, including the Chocó tinamou (Crypturellus kerriae VU), Chestnut-mantled Oropendola (Psarocolius cassini EN), Viridian dacnis (Dacnis viguieri), Crested ant-tanager (Habia cristata), Lita woodpecker (Piculus litea), and Plumbeous forest-falcon (Micrastur plumbeus EN). Also to be noted is the presence of the Harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), the Black and white crowned eagle (Spizastur melanoleucus), taxa increasingly rare in many areas of the Neotropics, and possibly the Speckled antshrike (Xenornis setifrons EN) although one has not been recorded in Colombia since the 1940s.

The region is rich in mammalian taxa, but the larger animals have received inadequate research. These include the Bush dog (Speothos venaticus NT); Chocó tamarin (Saguinus geoffroyi EN), the Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii EN), the Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla VU), the Brown-headed spider monkey (Ateles fuscipens CR), the Puma (Puma concolor VU), the Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis LC), and the jaguar (Panthera onca NT).

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Dispersal

The mammals that utilize the D. panamensis fruit are subdivided into two categories. The first category, the dispersers, consists of mammals that only consume the fleshy exocarp and leave the endocarp intact, which includes several species of monkeys, four species of bats such as Carollia and Artibeus spp., pacas, and coatis. The species of bats may provide long distance seed dispersal when traveling to feeding roosts but other mammals tend to leave seeds close to the parent trees (De Steven & Putz 1984). Scientists hypothesize that the fruit may have been dispersed by a large Pleistocene mammal that is now extinct because the fruit’s morphology is very similar to that of some elephant dispersed fruits in Africa (Janzen & Martin 1982). The second group of mammals, seed predators, consists of the peccary and three rodents, the red-tailed squirrel, the spiny rat and the agouti. However, in certain instances the agouti and the squirrel can act as dispersers for D. panamensis as they are known to cache seeds (Forget 1993). In addition to these mammals, the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) is also a known seed predator of D. panamensis as they can chew or crack the hard endocarps and extract the seed (Hanson et al. 2006).

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General Ecology

Keystone species

D. panamensis is considered a keystone species because of the timing and quantity of its fruit production. During the late season (November) through the middle of the dry season (February) few trees produce fruit, causing a food scarcity for frugivorous animals. D. panamensis bears single-seeded green drupes during this period providing a critical abundance of fruit to the animal population (Hanson et al. 2006). 

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Fruiting

Dipteryx panamensis fruit consist of a single seeded green drupes encased in a thick woody endocarp. The fruit and seed of D. panamensis is used by 16 mammal species for consumption (De Steven & Putz 1984).

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Pollination

Dipteryx panamensis is pollinated by a least 13 species of medium-to-large opportunistic bees such as Trigona or Mesoplia spp. (Perry & Starrett 1980).

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Flowering

Dipteryx panamensis flowers in the early wet season with mature trees producing a large floral display consisting of up to an estimated 0.6 to 1.3 million pink lavender flowers (McDade 1994). Each hermaphroditic flower functions for only one day, which begin opening at dawn and are fully open one hour later. Within the first two hours after sunrise the flower reaches maximum production for nectar, which on average is six microliters. In addition to nectar, the flowers also release a strong odor, similar to sweet peas, which can be detected hundreds of feet away (Perry & Starrett 1980). D. panamensis flowers are often visited by other organisms then just its pollinator including flies, hummingbirds, and butterflies (McDade 1994).

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Dipteryx panamensis is currently listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora as an CITES Appendix III species and was also recently designated as a species Vulnerable to extinction after an evaluation of Costa Rican plant species was done using the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List Criteria (IUCN 2014). D. panamensis is also connected to the conservation efforts for the endangered Great Green Macaw, which depends on D. panamensis for nesting and acts as one of its only food sources (Hanson et al. 2008). In Costa Rica alone 90% of the Great Green Macaw’s nesting zone has been reduced by the country’s uncontrolled logging of D. panamensis, which has become the primary hardwood for truck beds, flooring, and other special uses. Unfortunately, as the species of D. panamensis becomes scarcer and scarcer due to logging the wood dramatically increases in its worth essentially provides more reason for loggers to continue cutting (Chassot & Arias 2002). 

  • (Papilionaceae) seeds by rodents in Panama. Oecologia 94:255-261
  • CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora). 2014. Web: http://www.cites.org/ 11 Nov. 2014.
  • Chassot, O., G. Arias. 2006. Great Green Macaw: flagship species of Costa Rica. PsittaScene. 53
  • De, Steven D, and F E. Putz. 1984. Impact of Mammals on Early Recruitment of a Tropical Canopy Tree, Dipteryx Panamensis, in Panama. Oikos. 43.2
  • Forget, P.M. 1993. Post-dispersal predation and scatterhoarding of Dipteryx panamensis
  • Fournier, L.A. 2003. Dipteryx panamensis (Pittier). Record & Mell. The RNGR Team, Part II –Species Descriptions.
  • Hanson, T. R., S. Brunsfeld, B. Finegan, L. P. Waits. 2008. Pollen Dispersal and Genetic Structure of the Tropical Tree, Dipteryx panamensis, in a Fragmented Costa Rican Landscape. Molecular Ecology. 17.8: 2060-2073.
  • Hanson, T., S. Brunsfeld, B. Finegan. 2006. Variation in Seedling Density and Seed Predation Indicators for the Emergent Tree Dipteryx panamensis in Continuous and Fragmented Rain Forest. Biotropica. 38.6: 770-774. Print.
  • IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). 2014. Ara ambiguus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Web. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22685553/0 16 Nov. 2014.
  • Janzen, D. H., P. S. Martin. 1982. Neotropical anachro- nisms: the fruits the gomphotheres ate. Science 215: 19-27.
  • McDade, L.A. 1994. La Selva: Ecology and Natural History of a Neotropical Rain Forest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Perry, D. R., A. Starrett. 1980. The Pollination Ecology and Blooming Strategy of a Neotropical Emergent Tree, Dipteryx panamensis. Biotropica. 12.4: 307-313.
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