Journal of Tropical Ecology

Scatter-hoarding by musky rat-kangaroos, Hypsiprymnodon moschatus, a tropical rain-forest marsupial from Australia: implications for seed dispersal

Andrew J. Dennis a1p1
a1 Departments of Zoology and Tropical Ecology and Tropical Environment Studies and Geography, James Cook University of North Queensland, Australia

Article author query
dennis aj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


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: