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Keywords:

  • seed dispersal;
  • Saguinus mystax;
  • Saguinus fuscicollis;
  • tamarin;
  • Peru;
  • ecology;
  • rain forest

Abstract

Data collected during a 12-month field investigation of mixed species troops of Saguinus mystax and Saguinus fuscicollis in the Amazon Basin of north-eastern Peru indicate that callitrichid primates play an important role in tropical forest seed dispersal. Moustached and saddle-back tamarins were observed to ingest seeds from a variety of tree and liana species and pass them unharmed. These seeds tended to be large and heavy, and passed through the tamarin digestive tract in one to three hours. Experimental plantings of defecated seeds yielded a germination success rate of 70%. The specific gravity of these seeds (weight/volume) was inversely correlated with passage time and apparently had an indirect influence on the distance that seeds were dispersed from the parent tree. In the case of three preferred fruiting species, Leonia glycycarpa, Pourouma sp., and Hippocrateaceae #283, the present distribution of adult trees closely resembled the pattern of the seed shadow created by Saguinus. Moustached and saddle-back tamarins appeared to be reliable and high-quality dispersal agents for a number of tree and liana species. In this role, they are likely to exert an important influence on the composition, distribution, and regeneration patterns of Amazonian rain forest.