Journal of Tropical Ecology

Seed dispersal and defecation patterns of Cebus capucinus and Alouatta palliata: consequences for seed dispersal effectiveness

Elisabet V. Wehncke a1c1, Catherine Numa Valdez a2 and César A. Domínguez a1
a1 Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, A.P. 70-275, México D.F. 04510, México
a2 Centro IberoAmericano de la Biodiversidad (CIBIO), Universidad de Alicante, E-03080 Alicante, Spain

Article author query
wehncke ev   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
valdez cn   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
dominguez ca   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Primates are primary seed dispersers for many tropical tree species. Different species of primates vary considerably in ranging and feeding behaviour, seed processing, and in seed defecation patterns. Here we compare the role of two arboreal primate species, howlers (Alouatta palliata), and white-faced monkeys (Cebus capucinus) as seed dispersers in a tropical dry forest in Costa Rica. We found that Cebus produce smaller defecations, spend shorter times feeding per tree, have longer seed dispersal distances, and produce a more scattered pattern of seed deposition in the forest than Alouatta. In addition, Cebus moved more frequently between trees, and consumed fruits of more species than Alouatta. We examined the consequences of the contrasting defecation patterns produced by Cebus and Alouatta on the early seed fate of Acacia collinsii. We found that quantity, but not the identity (Cebus vs. Alouatta) of faecal material affected post-dispersal activity. Seeds in scattered faeces, sufficiently apart from each other (the common defecation pattern of white-faced monkeys), had higher short-term survival than seeds in clumped patterns of faeces (the pattern associated with Alouatta).

(Accepted September 13 2003)

Key Words: Acacia collinsii; Alouatta palliata; Cebus capucinus; Costa Rica; defecation patterns; dispersal effectiveness; post-dispersal; primates; seed dispersal; seed removal; tropical dry forest.

c1 Corresponding author. Laboratorio de Interacciones Planta-Animal, Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva Apartado 70-275, Ciudad Universitaria, Circuito Exterior 04510 México D.F., México. Email: