Great apes are important seed dispersers with large bodies, able to swallow large seeds and travel long distances. Although there have been several studies investigating seed dispersal quality [sensu Schupp (Vegetatio 107/108:15–29, 1993)] by chimpanzees, there is little information on the volume of seeds they can carry in their bodies. When a relatively fresh corpse of a mature female chimpanzee was found at Mahale, Tanzania, we took advantage of the rare opportunity to investigate the total weight and cubic volume of seeds recovered from the corpse. The seeds contained in the corpse weighed 258.8 g (dry weight) and measured 489.4 cm3. The volume of seeds was 14.7 % of the previously reported capacity of the digestive tract of a chimpanzee in captivity. We also indirectly estimated the volume of seeds from the values of observed seed volume in feces, the reported number of defecations per day, and the seed passage time. The estimated volume was significantly lower than the observed seed volume, suggesting that the number of defecations per day is underestimated because it may not include nighttime defecation.
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We would like to thank the Tanzanian Commission for Science and Technology, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, and the Tanzania National Parks for their permission to conduct research at Mahale. We would also like to thank Mr Abdala Ramadhani for the information he conveyed when he found the dead chimpanzee, and Dr. Iddi Lipende for the information he shared with us concerning the autopsy on the dead chimpanzee. We appreciate the valuable comments and encouragement from Dr. John C. Mitani and Dr. Joanna E. Lambert regards the earlier draft of this manuscript. The research was supported by Kakenhi (No. 15H04429 to M.N and No. 15KT0008 to M. Uchibori), Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. We have complied with the standards laid down by the Primate Society of Japan for the ethical treatment of animals.
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Nakamura, M., Sakamaki, T. & Zamma, K. What volume of seeds can a chimpanzee carry in its body?. Primates 58, 13–17 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-016-0568-5
- Mahale Mountains National Park
- Pan troglodytes
- Seed dispersal
- Seed volume