Differential resource use by primates and hornbills: Implications for seed dispersal


Journal Article

Arboreal frugivores, such as primates and hornbills, are important seed dispersers for many tropical plant species, yet the degree to which they use the same resources is unknown. If primates and hornbills consume the same fruit species, they may be redundant in their roles as seed dispersers, and the loss of one of these taxa may be compensated for by the other. To examine resource use by tropical frugivores, we quantified the feeding habits of two hornbill species, Ceratogymna atrata and C. cylindricus, and five primate species, Colobus guereza, Lophocebus albigena, Cercopithecus pogonias, C. cephus, and C. nictitans, in the lowland rainforest of south-central Cameroon. Based on over 2200 feeding observations recorded between January and December 1998, we characterized the diets and estimated dietary overlap among frugivore species. Previous studies have calculated dietary overlap by counting the number of diet species that two animals share, often leading to inflated estimates of overlap. Our method incorporated the proportional use of diet species and fruit availability into randomization procedures, allowing a clearer assessment of the actual degree of overlap. This added complexity of analysis revealed that, although the diets of a hornbill and a primate species may have as many as 36 plant species in common, actual dietary overlap is low. These results suggested that there are distinct hornbill and primate feeding assemblages, with primates consuming a greater diversity of plant species and higher levels of nonfruit items like leaves and seeds. Using Correspondence Analysis, we also identified two primate assemblages, separated largely by degree of frugivory and folivory. In addition, we found that hornbills feed at significantly higher strata in the forest canopy and eat fruits of different colors than primates. Averaged across the year, overlap between groups (hornbill-primate) was significantly lower than combined within-group overlap (primate-primate and hornbill-hornbill), showing that primates and hornbills have dissimilar diets and are not redundant as seed dispersers. In equatorial Africa, primate populations face greater declines than hornbill populations because of hunting. It is unlikely that seed dispersal by hornbills will compensate for the loss of primates in maintaining forest structure.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Poulsen, JR; Clark, CJ; Connor, EF; Smith, TB

Published Date

  • January 1, 2002

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 83 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 228 - 240

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0012-9658

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1890/0012-9658(2002)083[0228:DRUBPA]2.0.CO;2

Citation Source

  • Scopus