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Frugivore assemblage of Ficus superba in a warm-temperate forest in Yakushima, Japan

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Understanding fig consumption patterns is important because figs are regarded as a keystone resource for many frugivorous species in the tropics. While much work on fig consumption has been conducted in tropical regions, temperate forests are particularly interesting for study owing to pronounced seasonal variations in temperature and community-level fruiting phenology. We studied frugivore consumption of Ficus superba (Miq.) Miq. var. japonica Miq syconia in a warm-temperate forest in Yakushima, southern Japan. We conducted 141 4-h focal observations of fruiting F. superba trees over 12 months. We aimed to assess the relative quantitative contribution of each species of frugivore to F. superba consumption over a year as well as factors affecting seasonal variation in consumption. Japanese macaques were by far the most important F. superba syconia consumer (87.6 %), followed by brown-eared bulbuls (5.0 %), and varied tits (4.2 %). Japanese macaques increased their F. superba consumption when the temperature was high and fruit availability (F. superba and other species) was low. Macaques seemed to avoid searching for rare F. superba trees during winter and used F. superba syconia as a fallback food during fruit scarcity. Birds showed the opposite pattern: they increased F. superba syconia consumption when the temperature was low and fruit availability was high. This was probably because birds eat insects as their main food in the summer and switch to fruit as autumn turns to winter.

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We would like to thank our friends and colleagues in Yakushima for their hospitality and help during the fieldwork. Drs. Otani T. and Sawada A. offered us location data for the trees monitored in the phenology census. Dr. Aiba S. gave us temperature data. Dr. Tsujino R, Prof. Yumoto T, anonymous reviewers and editors of this journal, and the members of the Department of Ecology and Social Behavior, Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, offered us helpful comments. Yakushima Forest Ecosystem Conservation Center and Yakushima National Park permitted our research. This study was financially and logistically supported by the Cooperation Research Program of Wildlife Research Center, Kyoto University and Grant-in-Aid for Challenging Exploratory Research to GH (#23657018, #15K14604).

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Correspondence to Goro Hanya.

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Hamada, A., Hanya, G. Frugivore assemblage of Ficus superba in a warm-temperate forest in Yakushima, Japan. Ecol Res 31, 903–911 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-016-1398-z

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  • Fig
  • Frugivory
  • Fruit
  • Macaca fuscata
  • Phenology