Get access

Seed Dispersal in the Dark: Shedding Light on the Role of Fruit Bats in Africa

Authors

  • Carrie E. Seltzer,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departments of Botany and Zoology, The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A
    • Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Henry J. Ndangalasi,

    1. Department of Botany, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Norbert J. Cordeiro

    1. Departments of Botany and Zoology, The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A
    2. Department of Biological, Chemical, and Physical Sciences, Roosevelt University, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A
    Search for more papers by this author

Corresponding author; e-mail: carrieseltzer@gmail.com

Abstract

In spite of their recognized importance as seed dispersers in other parts of the tropics, seed dispersal by fruit bats has received scant research attention in Africa. To evaluate the role of African fruit bats in seed dispersal, we studied fruits and seeds below 480 bat feeding roosts in the East Usambara Mountains of Tanzania. We compared these findings to those reported in other African localities to place our results in a broader context. We found 49 plant species dispersed by bats: 28 species, 18 genera, and one family are novel reports of bat dispersal in Africa. Approximately 20 percent of the submontane tree flora of the East Usambaras is bat-dispersed, including both widespread and endemic trees. African fruit bats are important seed dispersers at our study site because they move seeds of dozens of species tens or hundreds of meters, even seeds that are too large to ingest (greater than 5 mm in length). Fruit bats are likely important seed dispersers in other Afrotropical forests, as bats elsewhere in Africa are known to consume 20 genera and 16 species of plants reported here. Insights from studying remains under bat feeding roosts offer a simple method to further document and substantially increase our understanding of the role of African fruit bats in seed dispersal.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary