Journal of Tropical Ecology

Effects of dung presence, dung amount and secondary dispersal by dung beetles on the fate of Micropholis guyanensis (Sapotaceae) seeds in Central Amazonia

a1 University of Florida, Department of Zoology, 223 Bartram Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA


The study of seed fate is crucial for understanding fruit-frugivore interactions. One factor that can greatly influence the fate of seeds dispersed through mammal defecation, is the dung that accompanies the seeds. Dung attracts dung beetles and rodents; the former eat and bury dung, the latter feed on seeds. In this study the fate of Micropholis guyanensis subsp. guyanensis seeds surrounded by no dung and by 5, 10 and 25 g of howler monkey dung was followed until seedling establishment. The depths at which dung beetles bury the seeds were measured, and the effect of burial depth on seedling emergence was determined. Although initial seed fates differed among treatments, the same percentage of seedlings established from seeds without faecal material, and from seeds with 5, 10 and 25 g of dung. However, a significantly higher proportion of seedlings established from buried seeds when compared to seeds that remained on the surface. The percentage of seedlings establishing in a controlled germination experiment decreased significantly with increasing burial depth. The effect of dung beetle activity should be taken into consideration when assessing the role that mammal endozoochory plays on seed dispersal ecology of tropical plants. These results provide further evidence for the emerging realization that the study of secondary seed dispersal and post-dispersal events is crucial for a more complete understanding of plant regeneration.

(Accepted July 10 2000)

Key Words: dung beetles; Micropholis; Sapotaceae; seed dispersal; seed fate.

c1 Address for correspondence: Departamento de Ecología de los Recursos Naturales, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 27-3, CP 58089, Merelia, Michoacán, Mexico. Email: