Seed dispersal by a diurnal primate community in the Dja Reserve, Cameroon
Multiple species of primate disperse seeds and differentially contribute to the seed rain in tropical forests. The goal of this study was to examine seed dispersal by a primate community of five monkey and two ape species in the Dja Reserve, Cameroon. The density of primates in the reserve was calculated to be 77 individuals km-2. Analysis of 5789 faecal clumps demonstrated that 40% of monkey and 74% of ape faecal clumps possessed whole seeds. Six of the seven focal species acted as seed dispersers; faecal clumps passed by the black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza) did not contain any whole seeds during the study. Seed passage trials on four captive monkey species showed monkeys to have an average seed passage time of 22 hours and defecation rate of five times per day. From the above results, the primate community was estimated to defecate 1129 seeds km-2 d-1. Seeds passed by the primate community came from 125 species of trees, lianas and shrubs, equivalent to at least 34% of the known tree flora. Rarefaction curves indicated that additional collection effort would identify more seed species passed by primates. Germination studies demonstrated that primate-passed seeds are viable. The number of seeds and plant species dispersed suggests that the primate community plays an important role in the maintenance of forest structure.