Effects of gut passage, feces, and seed handling on latency and rate of germination in seeds consumed by capuchins (Cebus capucinus).
One of the key measures of the effectiveness of primary seed dispersal by animals is the quality of seed dispersal (Schupp: Plant Ecol 107/108  15-29). We present data on quality of seed dispersal by two groups of white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) in Costa Rica to test the hypothesis that capuchin seed handling results in effective primary dispersal for some fruit species they consume. We examined seed handling for 27 plant species, and germination rates of 18 species consumed by capuchins. For five of the most commonly swallowed seed species, we determined germination rates and average time to germination (latency) for seeds ingested and defecated by capuchins and compared these to seeds removed directly from fruit and planted. For the same five species, we compared germination rates and latency for passed seeds planted in capuchin feces to those cleaned of feces and planted in soil. For three of five species, differences in proportion of germinated seeds were significantly higher for gut passed seeds than for controls. For four of five species, germination latency was significantly faster for gut passed seeds than for controls. Feces had either no effect on seed germination rate or precluded germination. Data presented here support the hypothesis that white-faced capuchins are effective primary dispersers.
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