Fruit patch size and frugivory in the lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris)


  • Richard E. Bodmer

    1. Large Animal Research Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, 34A Storey's Way, Cambridge CB3 0DT
    Search for more papers by this author
    • *Dept. Zoologia, Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi. Caixa Postal 399, 66.040 Belém. PA, Brazil


Large non-ruminant ungulates consume the more abundant low-quality forage because this gives them the advantage of reducing search effort. However, large-bodied herbivores would be predicted to search for high-quality fruit patches if these patches were of large size and the fruits rich in nutrients. Diets of lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris), a large non-ruminant of the Amazon basin, were examined from animals of north-eastern Peru to investigate this relationship between high-quality fruit, lower-quality browse and searching behaviour. Lowland tapir consumed on average 33% fruit, which is relatively high for a large non-ruminant ungulate. The fruit portion of lowland tapir diets was dominated by the nutritious Mauritia flexuosa (Palmae) drupes, which were selected by tapir more frequently than other fruit types. M. flexuosa palms grow in virtually monotypic stands and occur in larger patches than other fruit trees used by terrestrial herbivores of the Amazon. Lowland tapir encountered fruits more frequently when ranging in M. flexuosa palm forests than in non-palm forests, because they changed their searching behaviour once they entered palm forests by turning more abruptly. It appears that lowland tapir can consume greater proportions of fruit than other large non-ruminant ungulates, because they exploit a nutritious fruit that occurs in large patches and that meets the energy demands of their large body size.