Get access

Aggregated seed dispersal by spider monkeys limits recruitment to clumped patterns in Virola calophylla


Correspondence and present address: Center for Tropical Forest Science – Arnold Arboretum Asia Program, Harvard University, 22 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The initial spatial pattern of seed deposition influences plant population and community structure, particularly when that pattern persists through recruitment. In a vertebrate-dispersed rain forest tree, Virola calophylla, we found that spatially aggregated seed deposition strongly influenced the spatial structure of later stages. Seed dispersion was clumped, and seed densities were highest underneath V. calophylla females and the sleeping sites of spider monkeys (Ateles paniscus), the key dispersal agent. Although these site types had the lowest per capita seed-to-seedling survival, they had the highest seedling/sapling densities. Conversely, seed and seedling/sapling densities were lowest, and seed survival was highest, at sites of diurnal seed dispersal by spider monkeys. Negative density-dependent and positive distance-dependent seed survival thinned seed clumps. Nonetheless, the clumped dispersion at sleeping and parental sites persisted to the seedling/sapling stage because differences in seed deposition were large enough to offset differences in seed survival among these site types.