Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Russo in Journal of Tropical Ecology (2005) 21.


Copyright 2005, Cambridge University Press. Used by permission.


Natural seed deposition patterns and their effects on post-dispersal seed fate are critical in tropical tree recruitment. Previous research showed that the key dispersal agent of the neotropical tree, Virola calophylla, is the spider monkey (Ateles paniscus). Spider monkeys generate a heterogeneous seed deposition pattern because they scatter-disperse seeds diurnally, whereas they clump-disperse seeds at their sleeping sites. The recruitment consequences of this pattern were investigated using manipulative experiments and observations. Scatter-hoarding by spiny rats (Proechimys spp.) caused little rearrangement of the initial seed deposition pattern because they moved seeds only short distances. Seed survival to the seedling stage depended negatively on conspecific seed density and positively on the distance from the nearest adult V. calophylla female. These effects were likely mediated by two important seed predators, spiny rats and beetles (Scolytidae). Furthermore, spider monkeys' seed deposition patterns influenced seed survival. Scatter-dispersed and experimentally dispersed seeds had the highest survival. Conversely, clump-dispersed seeds at sleeping sites, which are far from V. calophylla females, and non-dispersed seeds had equally low survival, suggesting that conspecific density- and distance-dependence acted independently and did not explain all variation in seed survival. Instead, other characteristics of the seed deposition pattern, such as the multi-specific assemblage of seeds at sleeping sites, also affected post-dispersal seed fates.