Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

Seed-dispersal of Vouacapoua americana (Caesalpiniaceae) by caviomorph rodents in French Guiana

Pierre-Michel Forgeta1 p1

a1 Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris 6), Laboratoire de Botanique Tropicale, 12 rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France


A possible mutualistic dispersal system between a large-seeded tree of French Guiana, Vouacapoua americana (Caesalpiniaceae), and caviomorph rodents, Myoprocta exilis and Dasyprocta leporina, is described. Mast fruiting of Vouacapoua at the beginning of the wet season coincides with scatter-hoarding seed dispersal. During the wet season, almost 100% of marked seeds on three sites were removed: nearly 70% were buried and the rest were eaten by mammals. Unburied seeds were attacked by insects and/or lost their ability to germinate. Rodents preferred ungerminated seeds, and had no interest in germinated seeds. Seeds were buried individually near natural objects such as palms, branches, logs, lianas, roots and trees. After predation by rodents, seedling distribution did not differ from seed distribution. Most seeds were transported less than 5 m from the feeding plots but some were carried as far as 22.4 m. Between 40 and 85% of dispersed seeds were retrieved during the following month by rodents and eaten. The disinterest of caviomorph rodents in germinated seeds, because of rapid exhaustion of endosperm reserves, prevents feeding from hoarded Vouacapoua during the long dry season when resources are scarce. Seedlings emerging from forgotten or abandoned cached seeds appear to increase the recruitment of Vouacapoua americana.

(Accepted March 06 1990)


p1 Present address: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, APO Miami 34002. USA and Laboratoire d'Ecologie Générale, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 4 Avenue du Petit Château, 91800 Brunoy, France.