Scatter-hoarding by musky rat-kangaroos, Hypsiprymnodon moschatus, a tropical rain-forest marsupial from Australia: implications for seed dispersal
Tropical forests around the world contain animals that scatter-hoard fruits and seeds but few are known in Australian tropical forests. This study used both direct observation and spool-and-line tracking of simulated fruits to demonstrate that Australia's smallest kangaroos disperse large numbers of rain-forest fruits and seeds. They did so in two ways, either by scatter-hoarding or by carrying them away from the source to devour the flesh before dropping the seed on to the litter surface. The fruits used included a range of fruit types but particularly species with large fleshy fruit. Caches occurred as a single fruit pressed into the soil and covered with litter a mean distance of 17 m (±2.7 SE) and up to 68 m from the source. Musky rat-kangaroos handled up to 2700 fruits ha-1 mo-1 and they dispersed up to 900 fruits ha-1 mo-1 and cached up to 690 fruits ha-1 mo-1. This behaviour is a significant example of convergent evolution, which reflects similar behaviour found in agoutis, acouchies and squirrels on other continents.(Accepted November 8 2002)
Key Words: frugivore; kangaroo; Macropodoidea; marsupial; scatter-hoard; seed dispersal.
p1 Current address: CSIRO Tropical Forest Research Centre, Rain-forest Cooperative Research Centre, P.O. Box 780, Atherton 4883, Australia. Email: Andrew.Dennis@csiro.au