Network metrics are widely used to infer the roles of mutualistic animals in plant communities and to predict the effect of species' loss. However, their empirical validation is scarce. Here we parameterized a joint species model of frugivory and seed dispersal with bird movement and foraging data from tropical and temperate communities. With this model, we investigate the effect of frugivore loss on seed rain, and compare our predictions to those of standard coextinction models and network metrics. Topological coextinction models underestimated species loss after the removal of highly linked frugivores with unique foraging behaviours. Network metrics informed about changes in seed rain quantity after frugivore loss. However, changes in seed rain composition were only predicted by partner diversity. Nestedness, closeness, and d’ specialisation could not anticipate the effects of rearrangements in plant–frugivore communities following species loss. Accounting for behavioural differences among mutualists is critical to improve predictions from network models.
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© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS