23.04.2014 - 18:58
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Consumption, dispersal and germination of seeds: the role of bonobos in the ecosystem of the Congo basin

by David Beaune

BonoboBonobos are the largest primate in the Congo basin south of the Congo River and one of the largest consumers of fruit. Unlike many other primate species, bonobos tend to ingest the seeds of fruit and previous studies have shown that large amounts of seeds that have passed the digestive tract are intact. Therefore, bonobos are likely to have an important impact on seed dispersal and may serve an important function in the ecosystem of the lowland forest of the Congo basin. While the nutritional properties of the fruit consumed by bonobos have been studied, nothing is known about the trade offs that plants may derive from the dispersal by large frugivores. This study collects quantitative data on the ingestion and excretion of seeds by bonobos. Specifically, the following questions are addressed:

  1. What is the extend of seed ingestion by consumers and what proportion of seeds is excreted without physical damage?
  2. Does seed ingestion affect post-dispersal survival and germination?
  3. What is the dispersal pattern of ingested seeds?

The data obtained in this study will facilitate assessments of the ecological importance of bonobos in the ecosystem on plant community diversity and the abundance and dispersal of important food trees.