Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

Secondary seed dispersal by dung beetles in a Colombian rain forest: effects of dung type and defecation pattern on seed fate

Carolina Santos-Herediaa1, Ellen Andresena2 c1 and Diego A. Záratea1

a1 Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

a2 Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (CIECO – UNAM), Antigua Carretera a Pátzcuaro 8701, Col. Ex Hacienda de San José de la Huerta, Morelia, C.P. 58190, Michoacán, México


In rain forests the fate of seeds defecated by mammals is often affected by dung beetles, but these effects can vary with mammal species. In a Colombian forest, differences in Scarabaeinae assemblages attracted to spider monkey (Ateles hybridus) and howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus) defecations were assessed. In total, 791 beetles of 35 species were captured. Mean number of individuals was similar for both dung types; mean number of species was higher for Alouatta traps. The effects of dung type (Alouatta vs. Ateles) and defecation pattern (clumped vs. scattered) on the fate of 220 Rollinia edulis (Annonaceae) seeds were determined. Burial by beetles occurred for 61% of the seeds (mean depth 2.6 cm). Seeds in Alouatta dung and in clumped defecations had higher burial rates. Horizontal movement (mean 11 cm) occurred for 80% of the seeds; no significant effects of experimental factors were detected. Survival was higher for buried vs. surface seeds. In a separate experiment, no differences were detected between dung types in the proportion of seeds buried by beetles. Changes in dung texture might have been responsible for the contrasting results. When assessing the effectiveness of an endozoochorous plant–mammal interaction, secondary dispersal by dung beetles should be addressed too.

(Accepted March 27 2010)


c1 Corresponding author. Email:,