Howler Monkeys Alouatta-Palliata Dung Beetles Scarabaeidae and Seed Dispersal Ecological Interactions in the Tropical Rain Forest of Los Tuxtlas Mexico

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1991
Authors:A. Estrada, Coates-Estrada R.
Journal:Journal of Tropical Ecology
Keywords:Animalia-, Animals-, Arthropoda-, Arthropods-, Cebidae-: Primates-, Chordata-, Chordates-, Coleoptera-: Insecta-, Insects-, Invertebrata-, Invertebrates-, Mammalia-, Mammals-, Nonhuman-Mammals, Nonhuman-Primates, Nonhuman-Vertebrat, Vertebrata-

The dispersal of seeds by howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) and the activity of dung beetles in modulating the fate of the dispersed seed were studied at Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. Howlers consumed the fruits of 35 species of plants. The seeds of 28 of these were dispersed by the monkeys. The majority (.gtoreq. 90%) of the seeds dispersed by monkeys were destroyed by rodents. Rapid relocation and burial of dung by dung beetles resulted in accidental relocation and burial of large number of seeds shortly after deposition. Faecal clumps (20 mg) remained on the ground for an average of only 2.5 h (range 1-3 h). Ball rolling beetles transported balls up to 5.0 m from the site of deposition (range 1-5 m). Burrowing and ball-rolling dung beetles buried seeds at depths ranging from 2.5 to > 12.0 cm. The deeper a seed is buried, the less likely it is to be found and eaten by rodents. Eighty percent of the species used by Alouatta as sources of fruit at Los Tuxtlas benefited by the dispersal and post dispersal service provided by howlers and dung beetles respectively. Seasonality in dung beetles abundance in the forest may influence the number of seeds per species escaping post-dispersal predation during the year. Dung beetles play not only an important ecological role in the recycling of matter and energy in the ecosystem, but also in the process of rain forest regeneration.

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