Agoutis disperse tree seeds in the rain forest of Latin America
July 16, 2012
The Neotropics of Central and Southern America have many plant species with especially big fruits which were probably once ingested and then defecated by huge mammals of the Pleistocene that dispersed the seeds over large distances. But these huge mammals were most likely hunted to extinction more than 10,000 years ago. This raises the question why large-seeded plants aren’t also extinct. Even though rodents have been known to be poor dispersers, Patrick Jansen of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, Martin Wikelski of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell and their colleagues have shown that the tropical rodent Agouti Dasyprocta punctate has taken over the role of the seed dispersers. By video-monitoring the caches and attaching radio transmitters to more than 400 fruits, they found out that the rodents steal seeds from one another and hide them repeatedly. The seeds then finally end up to 280 metres away from their starting point. Read more....