, Volume 60, Issue 5, pp 449–457 | Cite as

Seed dispersal by proboscis monkeys: the case of Nauclea spp.

  • Valentine ThiryEmail author
  • Oriana Bhasin
  • Danica J. Stark
  • Roseline C. Beudels-Jamar
  • Régine Vercauteren Drubbel
  • Senthilvel K. S. S. Nathan
  • Benoit Goossens
  • Martine Vercauteren
Original Article


Frugivorous vertebrates such as primates are important dispersal agents in tropical forests, although the role of folivorous colobines is generally not considered. However, recent studies reported seed dispersal by endo- and epizoochory in colobine primates, including the proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), suggesting that the role colobines play in seed dispersal might have been underestimated. In the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, we investigated whether seeds were still able to germinate after being ingested by proboscis monkeys. Faecal samples (n = 201) from proboscis monkeys were collected between 2015 and 2017. Intact seeds belonging to eight plant species were found in 77% of the faecal samples. Nauclea spp. were the most abundant plant species, accounting for 98% of all intact seeds. This study is the first to conduct germination trials on seeds defecated by proboscis monkeys. Higher germination success was recorded in ingested Nauclea spp. seeds than in control seeds, from both ripe and unripe Nauclea orientalis fruits (P < 0.001). Therefore, we suggest that proboscis monkeys play a role in seed dispersal by enhancing the germination success of defecated seeds for at least some plant species. Similar to other colobines, although proboscis monkeys may provide a lower contribution to seed dispersal (low seed diversity over short distances) than other sympatric frugivores, this study emphasises that proboscis monkeys do contribute to the dispersal of intact seeds, such as Nauclea spp., in potentially suitable riverine habitats.


Nauclea spp. Nasalis larvatus Proboscis monkey Seed dispersal Seed germination 



We are grateful to the Sabah Biodiversity Centre and the Sabah Wildlife Department for supporting our research project and allowing us to conduct this study in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. This project would not have been possible without financial support from the FNRS (Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique), the FNRS Gustave Boël-Sofina Fellowship and the Fonds Léopold III—pour l’Exploration et la Conservation de la Nature asbl. We thank Quentin Phillipps for his invaluable contribution, as well as all the students and research assistants at Danau Girang Field Centre who worked with us in the field. Finally, we thank the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments that improved the manuscript.


This study was funded by FNRS (2014-18100, 2016-16755), FNRS Gustave Boël-Sofina Fellowship (2016) and Fonds Léopold III—pour l’Exploration et la Conservation de la Nature asbl. (2014-14.118).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

No direct contact with animals was conducted during this research, and ethical aspects of the research protocols have been approved by the FNRS committee and Sabah Biodiversity Council.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valentine Thiry
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Oriana Bhasin
    • 1
  • Danica J. Stark
    • 3
    • 4
  • Roseline C. Beudels-Jamar
    • 2
  • Régine Vercauteren Drubbel
    • 1
  • Senthilvel K. S. S. Nathan
    • 5
  • Benoit Goossens
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Martine Vercauteren
    • 1
  1. 1.Anthropology and Human Genetics UnitUniversité libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Conservation Biology UnitO.D. Nature, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural SciencesBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Danau Girang Field Centre, c/o Sabah Wildlife DepartmentKota KinabaluMalaysia
  4. 4.Cardiff School of BiosciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  5. 5.Sabah Wildlife DepartmentKota KinabaluMalaysia
  6. 6.Sustainable Places Research InstituteCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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