Seed predation and defleshing in the agouti-dispersed palm Astrocaryum standleyanum

P.A. Jansen, K. Elschot, P.J. Verkerk, S.J. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) meticulously defleshes Astrocaryum standleyanum palm seeds before scatter hoarding. On Barro Colorado Island, Panama, we experimentally tested three hypotheses on how this behaviour could reduce seed predation to the mutual benefit of the tree and the rodent. The first and established hypothesis – that defleshing reduces seed predation by bruchid beetles by intercepting larvae – was rejected. Experiments in which manually defleshed seeds or entire fruits were incubated at different times showed that defleshing reduced bruchid infestation before fruit fall but not after fruit fall. The second hypothesis – that defleshing reduces cache pilferage by making seeds less conspicuous – was supported. An experiment in which intact fruits and manually defleshed seeds were placed in mimicked agouti caches and followed showed that seeds with flesh were pilfered at higher rates than defleshed seeds. The third hypothesis – that defleshing reduces post-dispersal infestation of cached seeds – was rejected. An experiment in which intact fruits and manually defleshed seeds were placed in mammal exclosures and later collected to assess infestation showed that burial reduced seed infestation but defleshing did not. Thus, seed defleshing reduced palm seed predation, but in a different way than previously believed. We also found that (1) bruchid beetles can be pre-dispersal rather than post-dispersal seed predators, (2) seed infestation by scolytid beetles may control bruchid larvae, and (3) scolytids rather than bruchids are the main invertebrate seed predators of this palm
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-480
JournalJournal of Tropical Ecology
Volume26
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • bruchid beetle
  • forest
  • patterns
  • rodents
  • fruits
  • recruitment
  • germination
  • survival
  • poachers
  • peru

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