Edited by Daniel on February 13, 2013: updated name after reidentification below by Scott Mori in comments, updated entry slightly to reflect different species, and corrected mistake re:
swallows and coconuts bats and woody pods.
Thank you to Ian Crown for today’s image of
Lecythis zabucajo Lecythis pisonis (sapucaia), a member of the Lecythidaceae. This deciduous tree species can grow up to 30m (~100 ft.). It is native to parts of Brazil and Peru, where it will flower from August to September.
It will begin to drop its leaves shortly prior to its flowers fully opening (see this site for additional images of Lecythis spp.). When the flowers of this species and other members of the Lecythidaceae senesce and fall to the ground, they attract an incredible diversity of insect life. There have been observations of dead flowers of Lecythis harbouring over 1300 species of invertebrates from 21 families on one site! The presence of predatory and parasitic species suggested the formation of an additional trophic level within the micro-community associated with the deceased flowers, see: Feinstein, J. et al. 2007. Saproflorivory: A Diverse Insect Community in Fallen Flowers of Lecythidaceae in French Guiana. Biotropica. 39(4):549-554. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2007.00279.x
This image shows the mature pod-like woody fruit, which has a number of seeds with attached fleshy arils. The fruit of this species can grow quite large, approaching the size of a huskless coconut. The lid or operculum of the capsule is discharged upon maturity, revealing the nutritious seeds/arils inside. A related species, Lecythis zabucajo, shares its distribution with that of the greater spear-nosed bat (Phyllostomus hastatus). This bat is considered to be one of the main seed dispersers.
The bat is large enough to carry the entire 2-5lb fruit, but it is only interested in the arils attached to the seed. There have been some reports of finding entire immature (closed) capsules as well as high concentrations of seed of Lecythis zabucajo below known roost sites of the greater spear-nosed bat. For more info on bats as dispersal/pollinator agents in the Neotropics, see Tatyana Labova and Scott Mori’s site: Bat/Plant Interactions in the Neotropics.