, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 170-193

Frugivory and Seed Dispersal by Northern Pigtailed Macaques (Macaca leonina), in Thailand

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Abstract

Tropical rain forest conservation requires a good understanding of plant–animal interactions. Seed dispersal provides a means for plant seeds to escape competition and density-dependent seed predators and pathogens and to colonize new habitats. This makes the role and effectiveness of frugivorous species in the seed dispersal process an important topic. Northern pigtailed macaques (Macaca leonina) may be effective seed dispersers because they have a diverse diet and process seeds in several ways (swallowing, spitting out, or dropping them). To investigate the seed dispersal effectiveness of a habituated group of pigtailed macaques in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand, we examined seed dispersal quantity (number of fruit species eaten, proportion in the diet, number of feces containing seeds, and number of seeds processed) and quality (processing methods used, seed viability and germination success, habitat type and distance from parent tree for the deposited seeds, and dispersal patterns) via focal and scan sampling, seed collection, and germination tests. We found thousands of seeds per feces, including seeds up to 58 mm in length and from 88 fruit species. Importantly, the macaques dispersed seeds from primary to secondary forests, via swallowing, spitting, and dropping. Of 21 species, the effect of swallowing and spitting was positive for two species (i.e., processed seeds had a higher % germination and % viability than control seeds), neutral for 13 species (no difference in % germination or viability), and negative (processed seeds had lower % germination and viability) for five species. For the final species, the effect was neutral for spat-out seeds but negative for swallowed seeds. We conclude that macaques are effective seed dispersers in both quantitative and qualitative terms and that they are of potential importance for tropical rain forest regeneration.