Chimpanzee seed dispersal quantity in a tropical montane forest of Rwanda

Authors

  • Nicole D. Gross-Camp,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, Department of Environmental Studies, Antioch University New England, Keene, New Hampshire
    • Center for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, Department of Environmental Studies, Antioch University New England, 40 Avon Street, Keene, NH 03431
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  • Michel Masozera,

    1. Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont
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  • Beth A. Kaplin

    1. Center for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, Department of Environmental Studies, Antioch University New England, Keene, New Hampshire
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Abstract

We describe chimpanzee seed dispersal in the tropical montane forest of Nyungwe National Park (NNP), Rwanda, for a total of three years from January 1998 through May 2000 and May 2006 through March 2007. Relatively few studies have examined chimpanzee seed dispersal in montane communities where there are generally fewer fruiting tree species than in lowland forests. Such studies may reveal new insights into chimpanzee seed dispersal behaviors and the role that they play in forest regeneration processes. Chimpanzees are large-bodied, highly frugivorous, and tend to deposit the seeds of both large- and small-seeded fruits they consume in a viable state. We found that chimpanzees dispersed a total of 37 fruiting species (20 families) in their feces, 35% of which were large-seeded trees (≥0.5 cm). A single large-seeded tree, Syzygium guineense, was the only species to be dispersed in both wadges and feces. Based on phenological patterns of the top five large-seeded tree species found in chimpanzee feces, our results indicate that chimpanzees do not choose fruits based on their availability. There was, however, a positive relationship between the presence of Ekebergia capensis seeds in chimpanzee feces and S. guineense seeds in chimpanzee wadges and their respective fruit availabilities. Our data reveal that proportionately fewer chimpanzee fecal samples at NNP contained seeds than that reported in two other communities in the Albertine Rift including one at mid-elevation and one in montane forest. As in other chimpanzee communities, seeds of Ficus spp. were the most common genus in NNP chimpanzee feces. Our data do not support previous studies that describe Ficus spp. as a fallback food for chimpanzees and highlights an intriguing relationship between chimpanzees and the large-seeded tree species, S. guineense. Am. J. Primatol. 71:901–911, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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