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Seed dispersal ecology of non-restricted frugivores, capuchin monkeys in three neotropical forests

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 August 2007

Elisabet V. Wehncke
Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, A.P. 70-275, México D.F. 04510, México
César A. Domínguez
Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, A.P. 70-275, México D.F. 04510, México


Seed dispersal by frugivorous animals has the potential to affect both the demography and the patterns of gene flow of plant populations. In many tropical and subtropical forests a large number of seeds are efficiently dispersed by ‘non-restricted frugivores’ (NRFs, animals for which fruits do not represent the main bulk of their diet), a group commonly underestimated as seed dispersers. Here, we synthesize data from three different neotropical forests (Argentina, Panama and Costa Rica), evaluating several aspects of seed dispersal by two species of Cebus monkeys. Capuchin monkeys are NRFs broadly distributed throughout Central and South America that are potentially long-distance seed dispersers. In this study we evaluated the influence of the foraging behaviour of Cebus apella and C. capucinus on the patterns of seed dispersal. Even though the distribution of fruit types significantly differed among forests, no evidence of diet selection was found, indicating that the fruits consumed by monkeys represent a random sample of the pool available at each site. Neither seed treatment, nor the evenness with which fruit species were consumed, differed among forests. In contrast, the feeding time per fruiting tree (10–45 min), the diversity of fruits consumed (H = 2–3.3), and seed dispersal distances (100–400 m), differed among the three forests. Thus, capuchin monkeys consume a high diversity of fruits in transit producing a scattered dissemination of seeds in all study forests. This study highlights the ecological and evolutionary significance of seed shadows generated by NRFs, without neglecting the possibility that differences in the distribution of fruit patches, species richness and a range of environmental attributes among the studied forests, exert a strong influence on the outcome of the interaction between NRFs and plants.

Research Article
2007 Cambridge University Press

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